Raptors Cage

Prospecting: Jarnell Stokes, Shabazz Napier, T.J. Warren


The 2013-14 NBA draft kicks off in a few days and after an impressive regular season campaign, the Toronto Raptors will be picking 20th, 37th and 59th over the course of two rounds.

Analysts and observers have compared this year’s draft to that of 2003, one of the most talented pools in NBA history, not only in terms of frontline talent but depth in the latter selections.

Toronto has critical roster needs to address, particularly at power forward and small forward. Also, in light of rumours swirling around Kyle Lowry’s departure, the franchise might want to hedge their bets and secure a game changing floor general. The Raptors are one or two pieces away from being an interesting contender in the Eastern Conference, hence Thursday night will be tantamount to the upcoming season.

Drafting is flawed and not an exact science (remember Rafael Araujo? lol), and while it’s impossible to know what the Raps are really thinking, here are a few players worthy of consideration in 20-30 range.

1. Jarnell Stokes (Tennessee, PF)

The Good: Jarnell Stokes is a big bodied power forward, listing at 6′ 8″ and weighing in at 263 lbs. The Tennessee junior had a strong regular season with the Volunteers, averaging 15.0 points, 10.5 rebounds on 53.5 % shooting from the field. Stokes has increased his production every collegiate year and is a “motor” player who punishes opponents not only with his size and skill but aggressiveness and tenacity. The Bad: At 6’8″, Stokes might be a bit undersized for a power forward in the NBA. Moreover, the 20-year-old has yet to develop a steady and consistent jump shot and is chiefly a post player. Defensively, the junior needs to improve his shot blocking as he only averaged 0.9 blocks per game.

2. Shabazz Napier (Connecticut, PG)

The Good: If you watched the 2014 NCAA Tournament, you’ll remember him. Napier led the Connecticut Huskies on a Cinderella run to a championship and was a key offensive cog who thrived under pressure, making big shot after big shot. The vocal 22-year-old averaged 18.0 points, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals and also was lights-out from downtown, connecting on 40.5 % of his attempts. Napier has the intangibles and mental prowess to be a successful player in the NBA.

The Bad: Napier isn’t known for his playmaking ability and can be unselfish at times – choosing a contested jump shot over a pass to an open teammate. At 6’1″ and 175 lbs, Napier will have a tough time adjusting to the bullish point guards of the NBA, especially in the loaded Eastern Conference. The former Husky is not athletically imposing and primarily relies on jump shooting, accounting for a significant portion of his offensive production.

3. T.J. Warren (N.C. State, SF/PF)

The Good: An extremely gifted scorer – evidenced by his outstanding regular season with the Wolfpack where he averaged 24.9 points on 52.5 % shooting, as well as grabbing 7.1 rebounds per game and swiping 1.8 steals. Warren is an elite and versatile finisher especially at the rim and is very crafty in getting to the line. Warren is also very good in transition and can be extremely hard to defend due to his offensive creativity. He had very strong outings against top-ranked opponents such as Duke, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Virginia and Tennessee.

The Bad: The 69.0 FT % shooting is a bit alarming along with his 26.7 % three point shooting. Does not possess a quality or consistent outside shot, which might be a causality of shooting mechanics. Warren is not a playmaker and it shows in the stats; the sophomore only averaged 1.1 assists in the 2013-14 NCAA season.

Stay tuned for some more prospecting this week.

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