NPH Raptors Draft Watch: The Defensive Specialists
Toronto, ON– By now, NPH Draft Watch has covered Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely, Jonas Valanciunas, and Tristan Thompson. All of these guys are exciting and unique offensive players in their own right. However, with the defensive minded Dwane Casey now in charge, there is a chance the Raps might go after a player with limited offensive game, instead, drafting a defensive specialist. There are two “defensive specialists” available early in the draft, lets take a look at them in this final installment of NPH Raptors Draft Watch.
Kawhi Leonard is a 6’7 small forward, weighing in at 227 pounds with a wingspan of 7’3. Last season with San Diego State, he averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds a game. He is undoubtedly the top ranked wing player in the draft, and a player that could immediately challenge for a starting position with the Raptors when up against James Johnson and Linus Kleiza. Despite the impressive scoring averages last year in the NCAA, scouts do not think his offensive game will translate well to the NBA, but his defensive ability can be special. Leonard’s hype in the draft derives from his freakish physical attributes. At 6’7, he is an acceptable size for a SF, but with that 7’3 wingspan, he will wreak havoc for offensive players who try to shoot over him or finish at the rim around him. And if you haven’t seen the size of his freakish, E.T. sized hands, don’t ask any questions, just click here.
There are a lot of positive qualities that this soon to be 20-year old displays that
teams will consider come the draft. Leonard is a gym rat, who in constantly trying to get stronger, while working to improve his game. He plays the game with a lot of energy and is a very agile athlete. Although his shooting is not where it needs to be (44.4% from the field, 29% from three,) he has improved yearly, and teams will hope this trend continues once he reaches the NBA. His defense and rebounding will be qualities that will help any team, but what about his scoring?
Leonard’s shooting may be a problem, and while he may help in other ways, he definitely needs to improve his shot if he wants to reach his maximum potential. The worrisome part is, the rest of his offensive game is not that impressive either. Scouts worry that he does not have the skill to man the wing position properly. He does not have the moves to get him past defenders to the basket, and when he is unable to beat defenders, he has the tendency to take ill advised, off balanced jump shots. He also struggles to get to the free throw line with any consistency.
Leonard’s defensive intensity is something Coach Casey might want to develop, especially on a team that is lacking a quality wing defender. On a team with many offensive weapons already, Leonard would be able to focus on his game and not have to worry about making an impact on scoring game after game. Could be a solid pick for the Raptors, but keep in mind, although it is a year away, next year’s draft (which could be one of the best in recent memory,) features many wing and combo forward players that could help the Raptors more than Leonard this season.
This kid is the phenomena of all phenomenas and a freak of nature in his own right. Standing in at 6’9, the Congolese born Biyombo is a centre of massive proportions when you consider his 7’7 wingspan. Yes, a 7’7 wingspan is something that is almost unheard of in the NBA. Needless to say, this kid could be a shot-blocking machine in the league next year. Well, that’s another point, I used the word kid a little haphazardly. Biyombo is supposed to be 18 years old, but many who have talked and scouted him before think he actually might be between 21-23 years old. Could be a traditional case of a player saying he is younger to improve his draft stock.
On the defensive end, Biyombo could be a BEAST. Think Ben Wallace in his prime. He is an athletic freak, strong but still agile enough to run the court and play with great energy whenever he is on the floor. If drafted by the Raps, Biyombo would probably be the best defensive big man on the team right away. He has the ability to block or alter any shot taken around the basket, but he also has some surprisingly good defensive skills when playing man-to-man against other centres. Considering his strength and energy, Biyombo should be able to match up against most centres in the league on a daily basis. Given that the Raptors have not had a true centre in years, Biyombo could give the Toronto that much needed presence in the middle that they have sorely lacked.
As impressive as his defensive ability may be, his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. Biyombo can’t shoot. Outside of the paint, he is almost useless offensively. No face up shot, no back to the basket shot ; his game entails getting into the paint, getting the ball, and dunking it. If he can’t do that, he won’t score many points. Luckily, with that aforementioned wingspan, he gives passers a lot to work with, and is able to come up with the ball on many occasions. But still, when Biyombo has the ball, he has the tendency to try and do too much with it. He is prone to turning the ball over in high-pressure situations and he is an atrocious passer when trying to kick the ball out of the paint. Furthermore, he will get fouled a lot because of his strength, but his free throw shooting percentage is 55%, something he really needs to work on.
Like Ben Wallace, Bismack Biyombo will make his name known on the defensive side of the floor. Any offense he adds is bonus.
So with all of this information, do the Raptors go after the vastly unknown and raw Congolese player?
Once again, Dwane Casey will have a part to play in this if Biyombo is drafted. The Raps have never had a dominant defensive centre before, and despite his offensive struggles, Biyombo could help the Raptors in immeasurable ways. If he can stay out of foul trouble, Biyombo could be the perfect compliment to Andrea Bargnani. Andrea would finally be able to move back to his power forward position while being covered defensively by Biyombo. This is a tandem that truly could work, and the drafting of Biyombo might mean that Bargnani could be in Toronto for years to come. Biyombo could also team up with Ed Davis to form a lockdown frontcourt, although the Raps would need serious scoring from the other three positions.
If Toronto misses out on Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter, Bismack Biyombo would be a gamble at the number five pick. There have been reported back issues that Biyombo faces, but if healthy, he could be a player that would help Dwane Casey achieve the “hard-play” attitude, and he could be a defensive rock in that centre position for years to come.
Tune in tonight to watch the NBA Draft unfold, and see who your Toronto Raptors select with the number 5 overall pick!
Photo Courtesy: (Dave Thomas/QMI/Toronto Sun, Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images