Monday, June 18, 2012

Why Austin Rivers to Toronto Makes Sense

Rivers has been rumored to have a promise somewhere in the lottery. The prime candidates are Portland, Phoenix, and Toronto - all needing a scoring wing that can handle the ball. The curveball is there is another combo guard that is also rumored to have a lottery promise - Dion Waiters.

Now, Im not sure how great the chances are that BOTH these promises hold up, but there is certainly interests in these players between these three teams. And the team that has the most control is Toronto, picking ahead of Phoenix and Portland's 2nd lottery pick at #8.

I really like to take a look back at drafting history when trying to figure out what a general manager is doing. Some of it can be coincidence, but with guys like Colangelo and Stefanski running the front office, there is plenty of history to look at.

Rivers was a highly touted high school player, the #1 player in fact, and came into Duke with high expectations. His situation at Duke may not have been ideal - playing with a system coach who didnt fully let him do everything he wanted and alongside other talented combo guards without a true PG. By the end of the season, Rivers saw his stock drop out of the lottery after originally being thought of as a potentially top 5 pick.

Personally, I dont think his stock ever wavered that much amongst scouts. I dont think many saw him as a top5 pick then, nor do I think many scouts imagined him ever slipping out of the top 20. So here we are weeks before the draft and the media hype around him has worked his way up to a late lottery pick again...where he probably has been all along.

His great success in high school and a somewhat disappointing college career is where the Raptors Front Office comes in.

As the Raptors GM, Colangelo has gambled on Ed Davis and Demar DeRozan recently. As the head man for the Suns, he was rarely allowed to keep draft picks, but one of the few high picks he kept, was Amare Stoudemire.

What do these guys have in common? All were top 10 high school players. All were thought to be top 5 talents at one point. All had struggles between high school and the draft that knocked them down a bit.

For Davis, he had a chance to go top 5 his freshman year, but chose to come back. His next year was plagued by injuries and ultimately his stock suffered. He was still the same player as before and a smart GM like Colangelo never changed his opinion on him.

With DeRozan, he was heralded as the next big thing coming out of high school. Much talk surrounded him of being one and done and then going #1 in the draft. However, he was stuck in a bad situation at USC that really made him look bad. His stock dropped, but again, he was still the same player. Bryan (Colangelo) jumped all over him again.

Amare never went to high school, but teams had plenty of concerns about his attitude which sent one of the most talented players in the draft to tenth overall. Colangelo could never pass up such an immense talent as Amare.

Thats a decent sample size, but I wouldnt draw conclusion from that. Colangelo hasnt had many other high picks that hes kept . The few other ones were used on international players - also with very high upsides and young. There are no international players worthy of a top ten pick this year so lets continue to look at Americans.

Colangelo's right hand man in the front office is now Ed Stefanski. You might remember him from his time spend running the 76ers. In that time he selected Jrue Holiday and Marreese Speights as his only first rounders besides the slam dunk pick that was Evan Turner.

Holiday is the poster boy for what I'm talking about here. Top 5 talent heading into college. His season playing out of position next to Darren Collison had folks doubting he would even be drafted in the first round. 76ers stole him outside the lottery and have began to see the benefits.

Speights is a bit of an outlier here, as he was never projected to go top 5, but even out of high school he had the tools to develop into an NBA player and kind of got lost in the shuffle on the bench at Florida. Stefanski rolled the dice on his potential out of high school and has seen mixed results so far. They could have selected Koufos or Donte Greene here and would have also fit the mold, but there weren't many other options in 2008 that fit in their draft range.

So, back to Austin Rivers. I already typed a similar paragraph about him that would easily fit with the guys above. It also makes sense from a personnel standpoint.

The Raptors have Calderon at point, who could even be amnestied, but even if he isnt, they need a more aggressive guard that can handle to pair with him. Jose is one of the most vanilla PGs, so Rivers would fit great beside him.

The two main pieces the Raptors are building around are DeRozan and Valanciunas. Val might be the best building block (including Rivers), but hes not a big scorer. Val can make up for some of Rivers' deficiencies while Rivers can be the star scorer. DeRozan is ok, but he has proven to be more of a complimentary wing. He's a slasher, while Rivers would compliment him with shooting and ball handling. He'd also go well with Dwane Casey, who can cover for his defensive shortcomings.

While Rivers might be best suited for the bench, the Raptors really need an alpha dog type to come in there and change the locker room. Colangelo is in his last year of his contract and Rivers will show plenty year one to give ownership hope. And you know that Bryan has no problem with offense first players.

Colangelo normally zeroes in on his guys pretty quickly for the draft and I think there is a good chance he has already found his man. And based off of what Rivers has said, he wants to go there too (an NBA player that wants to go to Toronto!)

“I have kept up with teams that fit me and the Raptors are one of those places and that’s why I’m here,” Rivers said. “I think I fit in this program well. I like the way they play. I like the new coach, I like how he gets after it on defence. As far as offensively, they like to get up and down and go at them and that’s something I like to do.” Toronto Sun

“This is one of the places he likes a lot too,” Austin said of his dad, Celtics coach Doc Rivers. “There are only a few of them that we chose and my dad is even more of a critic. He likes this place and he loves their coach and so do I. Hopefully everything goes well.” Toronto Sun

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