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Checking Out the Prospects

by Mike Ulmer
--raptors.com
May 30, 2008

(TORONTO) - In the talent acquisition business for 13 years now, the Toronto Raptors have drafted 22 players in their history.

Thats not many. Especially when you consider NHL teams routinely swoop up nine or 10 prospects in a year. The NBA draft is like fishing in a barrel all right, but with 29 other lines in the water.

Consider Chris Bosh (fourth overall in 2003) and Andrea Bargnani (numero uno in 2006), two of the main pillars on which that the Raptors have to be built and you understand the importance of the draft.

Remember the decision by then-GM Rob Babcock to draft Rafael Araujo over Andre Iguodala in 2004? There has been no comparable opportunity to gain an explosive swing man. Now you understand the draft. Misspent choices define and cut short regimes.

Assuming they do not trade up or down, the Raptors will draft 17th overall at the June 26th event.

The Raptors greatest need is rebounding but an Iguodala type, sad to say, would also give the team some badly-needed explosiveness.

Here are some candidates gleaned from scouting reports and mock drafts compiled by experts and poseurs alike. We rifled through them, looking for the names that came up consistently. This isnt science. This is consensus, internet style.

Nicolas Batum, six-foot-eight, 214 lbs. France
A product of France, Batum has a wide range of offensive gifts including explosiveness and high basketball IQ. He is a physically gifted player but a transition to the NBA might require a slower transition than usual. It can take a veteran, let along a Eurorookie, several years to properly acclimatize himself. Batum is skinny and green but potentially spectacular.

Marreesse Speights, six-foot-10, 250 lbs., Florida.
Wingspan, attitude and IQ are his assets. He has a big frame but his offence, particularly on the block, might be slow in arriving. Needs to build up his body which seems fair since he is only 20. Because of his body frame, he looks like a conservative choice.

Roy Hibbert, seven-foot-two, 278 lbs., Georgetown
A huge centre with good hands, he has developed tremendously in his senior year. Good rebounder and adequate shot blocker. Great demeanour and work ethic.

Chase Budinger, six-foot-seven, 215 lbs., Arizona.
Very sound offensive player. Good size and athleticism with a 40-inch vertical leap. Has a range that goes beyond the arc and a fiery temperament but may need work on his mid-range game.

Donte Greene, six-foot-10, 226 lbs, Syracuse.
Like many terrific perimeter players, Greene sometimes is too content to let his jumper do the talking. Thats a shame because he has done the necessary work to develop a tremendous physique and has tremendous offensive as well as shot blocking instincts. Like so many prospects, very raw but very talented.

JaVale McGee, seven feet, 240 lbs., Nevada.
After two seasons at Nevada, McGee has eye-catching length, heft and a 33-inch vertical. There is a wide cross section of opinion on where McGee will go but be warned, he could well be gone by the time the Raptors choose and he would take several years to develop.