Now as some who read the blog may know, I am a Michigan fan. In the 90's Michigan had a group that would change the game in NCAA. Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Juwan Howard all had long NBA Careers. While Jimmy King was the first ever Raptors second round pick. Ray Jackson is almost like the 5th member of the Beatles. Everyone forgets about him. On the college level, this group made it to 2 Final Fours and 2 National Championship games. Webber and his time out that wasn't in a loss to North Carolina and a loss to Duke and Coack K.
Many are projecting as many as 5 Kentucky Wildcats could be selected in the first round. John Wall is expected to be the #1 pick of the draft. DeMarcus Cousins has been slotted as high as the second pick but seems to be a lock for the top 5. Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton seem to be picks somewhere between the 10-16 range. Even Eric Bledsoe is expected to be a late first round pick by many.
This group at Kentucky, is the closest thing the NCAA has seen since the Fab 5. The legacy of that group from Michigan has taken some hits. However no on can deny that it produced 3 solid NBA players. It also has produced a couple broadcasters in Rose for ESPN and Webber for TNT. Daniel Orton is a long way from a career in broadcasting. In fact even the NBA was until his coach mentioned the draft it was not even on his radar.
Orton- " I didn't even start to think about it till the end of the year, when Coach Cal said at the end of the year that Daniel Orton might have options. It is something that I didn't think about even then. When people started talking about it. It gained my interest and it was something I had to think about, and as you can see I made my decision "
There is nothing like the pressure of playing basketball in Kentucky. Fans are just crazy for the Wildcats in Kentucky. Here in Toronto, the fan base is known for being passionate and make their feelings known. That is something Daniel Orton should be able to handle. Fans at Kentucky were not exactly thrilled he decided to leave for the draft. But if you believe what Orton says, they have their coach John Calipari to blame. There was some talk that might he would leave as well, but will see. Calipari recently said he will be back at the school this fall. But Orton will be playing somewhere in the NBA and it might be Toronto. Some mock drafts think so. What does Jim Kelly part of the Raptors scouting brain trust think?
J.Kelly "He got better as the season went on. A very big body. Pretty good outside shooter for his size. Don't know if he has quite played into his body size and strength yet. He is very strong. I don't want to say further away.... You might not know what you have with him. "
In draft lingo talk, it would seem he has a large upside and could be a bit of a project pick. He had an injury in in high school senior year and his playing time with Wildcats was limited, with both Cousins and Patterson on that roster as well. Raptors picked DeRozan last year in part do to his potential and upside would they gamble again?
J.Kelly " We have talked about that. A lot will depend on what we do with our roster. If other players are coming in. If Bosh stays, if Bosh goes. They are all questions that we toss over as you do as well."
What also might be a factor is what teams do in front of the Raptors. They also had Ekpe Udoh who was a Michigan Wolverine but transferred to Baylor and was part of bringing that program back to prominence in the Big 12. They had a deep run in the NCAA tournament. To use another draft lingo term some may feel he is more "NBA ready" at the moment. Jim Kelly appears to agree.
J.Kelly " He has a lot more mature frame.He just turned 23. He started at Michigan went to Baylor had great success at Baylor this year. Probably a little bit more ready to go because of that playing time and the age as well."
Udoh had to sit out a year because of his transfer from Michigan to Baylor. He has shown a lot of improvement in his game from that year off. He was a key player for Baylor and a big part of the success they had. While with Orton he had an impressive cast around him which limited his playing time. However, like the Fab 5 the Wildcats five never won a championship. Still they clearly have all benefited from each other. The biggest question for me with all the Wildcats is how will they do on their own? Especially for the guys going in the lottery they will not be going to teams that have had success.
Orton would be a guy that would help on the defensive end of the floor. Even in his limited time on the floor he proved to be a presence in terms of blocking shots and getting on the glass. His focus seems to be on showing and improving on his skills on the other end of the floor. He seems committed to working hard and improving. How long it would take for him to make an impact in the NBA? Here is what he had to say.
Orton-" I don't know, that is something that I am looking forward to being in the gym 24/7. Hopefully I can do all the right things and make a quick impact and an immediate impact. That is what I am looking forward to, but if not great things come in time. But hopefully it is not a lot of time thought. "
I really was impressed by his passing in the parts of the workouts we were able to see. He moved the ball and was able to set up others. The ball was not sticking to his hands. If it wasn't there he would make a quick pass on target to someone else. The other thing I liked about him was he did not have all of the answers. However he was honest about it. He understands he has a lot of work to do and seems committed to doing it. If he can bring his defensive play to the next level and keep working on his offense he could turn out to be quite a steal for someone. The fact he is so willing to pass the ball and move it, does not make his offensive game in progress as much of a liability.
If the Raptors are going into a rebuild and looking to go younger this is a nice young piece to add the mix. Udoh from Baylor is more of a guy that can step in and have more of instant impact. So what direction the Raptors are heading will be a big part of who they ultimately select. If they end up staying at 13 and selecting someone, Daniel Orton is one of the more interesting options they should have to consider. Sometimes in the draft you have to decide on if you take the safe pick or you gamble and look for the potential great pick. Orton has a chance to be an impact type player. He is a little smaller than you would like in your 4 or 5. That being said, he is a kid that is put together and likely will fill out even more as time moves forward.
What was clear for me is 2 guys stood out of the 5 players the Raptors had in for workouts on this day. Orton and Udoh. Will take a closer look at Udoh another day. Raptors may have to hope he would fall in the draft to select him.