NEW YORK - The Raptors have made their list.
They’ve checked it twice.
Thursday, we’ll see what they came up with after one of the more fluid draft processes in some time.
Right up until the final evening before Thursday’s NBA draft it was hard to get a read on what might go down or what the Raptors have planned.
But try we must and it’s looking increasingly likely that the list is headlined by Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight, who an NBA team will try to convert from a scorer into more of a traditional point guard; Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, who will stay in Europe for at least another season due to a buyout issue; Congolese big man Bismack Biyombo, one of the draft’s biggest enigmas and San Diego State defensive demon Kawhi Leonard, whose offensive game is very much a work in progress.
For weeks it appeared that Knight — who wowed the Raptors in a workout earlier this month — would be off the board, probably to Utah third overall, but recent chatter has Utah passing on Knight.
If Enes Kanter and Tristan Thompson or Valanciunas go 3-4, Knight would likely happily be snapped up by Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors.
Each member of that list has expressed an interest in playing in Toronto and each would be an intriguing candidate.
On Wednesday at pre-draft media day in the Big Apple, Knight said he was tired of the “grind” of the workout circuit.
“At first it’s fun, you’re having a great time but then it starts to wear on you,” Knight said.
“I’m confident that all my workouts went great. I did the best that I could do and we’ll see where I land.”
As he had earlier in the month, Knight again called Toronto: “A great city.”
If Toronto inexplicably passed on Knight, he would go seventh to Sacramento.
Biyombo was not at the media session, but Thompson, who went up against him in a spirited workout, was singing the raw big man’s praises.
“He’s very talented, very athletic, he’s going to be a hell of a player,” Thompson said. “I’ll stamp that right now, he’s going to be a talented player in this league.”
Valanciunas said he has sought out advice from his countryman, Raptors forward Linas Kleiza.
What did Kleiza say to the svelte 7-footer who has displayed a nice shooting touch in Europe?
“He told me NBA is really hard job, so get ready for hard job,” Valanciunas said. “I know about Toronto, lots of Lithuanians live in Toronto so I’d like it.”
The team also likes Kanter, the mystery-shrouded Turkish big man, but don’t expect him to be available.
Kanter would have no qualms about being a Raptor should that come to pass.
“I would love to play for the Raptors,” he told the Sun.
“Toronto’s the international city. If I go there, (Andrea) Bargnani will play four I will play five it will be a really good fit for me.”
Leonard likely will be around and is a possibility. His tremendous rebounding ability and wingspan have many projecting him as a perfect cog in new head coach Dwane Casey’s system and Leonard agrees.
“I pride myself on defence,” said the soft-spoken forward. “If you want to show your defence (in a workout) you can try to lockdown your man, show your energy level, get some hands on some balls, defensive rebounds, blocking out. Do all the little things show the team that you’re really into winning.”
Leonard added that whoever picks him will be surprised at the advances he has made offensively.
“Working on my repetition at the gym has helped my confidence. I feel great with my shot now,” he said.