Day 11: And with the #5 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select…
It’s draft day people! Fresh off a two-year contract extension, Bryan Colangelo is in war mode as you read this (assuming it’s before 8pm) mulling over hundreds of situations involving trading players, trading picks and of course deciding who to draft.
My top 3 picks for the Raptors are:
1. Brandon Knight
The Raptors desperately need a point guard to replace Jose Calderon and his massive contract, and to fill in for Jerryd Bayless who has not proved he’s ready to be a NBA PG (yet, at least). Obviously Kyrie Irving would be an ideal candidate but all my money is on the Cavs taking him with the first overall pick.
Knight is a John Calipari guard, Calipari being the uber-successful college coach who in three consecutive years watched his point guards go 1st, 4th and 1st (Derrick Rose in 2008, Tyreke Evans in 2009 and John Wall in 2010). While Rose has been by far the most successful at the NBA level, take into account that none of them are older than 22. Knight is only 19, and averaged 17.3 ppg and 4.2 apg (both team-leading statistics) for the 25-8 Wildcats. But of course it isn’t just about statistics. The general thoughts are that he’s quick, can create opportunities for his teammates and is a clutch shooter (hitting two game winners in the latest NCAA tournament), which is something the Raptors sorely lack. Don’t ever tell me Bargnani is clutch! His weaknesses include being turnover prone and streaky shooting, something the Raptors can’t exactly afford but I’ll take him anyways. Another plus is that he had a 4.0 GPA in his freshman year, which is no small feat; a great thinking PG is something that the Raps could definitely use. I really hope the Raps grab him, but I’m worried he’ll get snapped up by Utah in the third spot.
In the case that Knight is unavailable at #5, my second choice is:
2. Kawhi Leonard
Kawhi Leonard is a soon-to-be 20 year-old small forward who averaged 15.5ppg and 10.6rpg for the 34-3 San Diego State Aztecs. His team lost 3 games the whole season, in an admittedly weak conference, but still, that is a fantastic record. He would provide some much needed rebounding to a Raptors squad that was tied for 21st in rebounding this past season. 21st is a generous ranking; they looked absolutely awful on the court.
Leonard looks like a great athlete in highlight reels and is seen that way by scouts. He also has some post moves and can knock down the jumper which means he has multiple weapons and may add a bit of mystery to the Raptors offense this season.
Unfortunately for Leonard, his position isn’t an immediate need for the Raptors who have a formidable role player in James Johnson and Linas Kleiza, whom I totally forgot about once he got injured.
Still though, Leonard will provide some fresh blood and his hyper athleticism will make it interesting while he plays alongside the also hyperathletic Demar Derozan.
The third pick might be a long shot but supposedly there is legitimate potential for it to happen:
3. Bismack Biyombo
In my opinion, this is a huge gamble. The 18 year-old centre from the Democratic Republic of Congo is a bit short for his position - he’s 6’9” - but at 245 lbs. provides excellent size and a big body that may actually defend and grab some boards. Bargnani, I’m still looking at you.
His game is raw on both ends but he has proven solid with with Spanish squad Fuenlabrada, averaging 6.4ppg and 5.1rpg in just 17mpg (in just 14 games played). Playing for the World Select Team at the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit, Biyombo recorded a triple double with 12 points, 11 boards and 10 blocks! The Raptors have had 10+ blocks a game in only 3 games in their 16 year history! *facepalm*
His biggest knock is that he isn’t mentally ready for the NBA, and even his physical game isn’t necessarily good to go yet either. But Biyombo certainly has potential and at 18 years old, would be the baby in our already really young core group.
Other potential picks are Kemba Walker, Jan Vessely and although no one seems to be saying it, I think homegrown Tristan Thompson has a legitimate shot to be snapped up by the Raptors.
Rumours I don’t want to see happen: Raptors trading for Tony Parker or Steve Nash. Despite their obvious skill, they don’t fit in with the culture of our team, plain and simple.
That’s it for now. I’m crossing my fingers for Knight.
Disclaimer: Opinions are partly my own and partly from other sources, including nbadraft.net. Statistics were acquired from ESPN.com.