The second pick belongs to the Toronto Raptors.  The GM is:

  Phil Bedard

Phil selects:

  Ray Allen

I. Team History/Needs
        The Raptors inaugural season was filled with ups and downs -- from
their impressive victories over the Bulls, Magic, and Sonics, to petty
infighting and public bickering between GM Isiah Thomas and since disposed
Coach Brendan Malone that marred the last half of the season. On the whole,
the Raptors first season can be deemed  a success one. Despite the
unflattering 21-61record, Thomas and Malone managed to put a competitive
team on the floor each night which helped the Raptors carve a definite niche
for basketball in the hockey-crazy Toronto market. 
        Heading into the '96 Draft, Thomas and the Raptor brian trust have
the enviable luxury of drafting the best player available with the Number #2
pick, regardless of team need. The only position on the '96-97 edition of
the Raptors that is carved in stone is the point guard slot, where the
Rookie of the Year and the player the Raptors will build around, Damon
Stoudamire, resides.

        Sharone Wright was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade
deadline in exchange for Tony Massenburg, Ed Pickney, and what has turned
out to be the Raptors 2nd Round Pick (32nd Overall) in this year's draft.
Wright, a 23 year-old second-year man, only made it into a limited number of
games as a Raptor, before a back injury sidelined him and forced him to miss
the final 15 games of the season. 
        In his limited appearances in a Raptor uniform, Wright showed
flashes of great potential as a low-post scorer. With his soft turn-around
jumper and lightning quick spin move to the basket, Sharone scored seemingly
at will against two of the NBA's premier big men, Hakeem Olajuwon and
Patrick Ewing, in games as a Raptor. Sharone's arrival added an ingredient
that was missing from the Raptor lineup in the first half of the season -- a
legitimate scorer from the low block. Wright is versatile enough to play two
positions: either the 4 or the 5.
        Unfortunately, Wright is far from a complete player at this stage of
his development -- the rest of his game is in serious need of an upgrade.
Wright's nagging ankle and back injuries caused him to show up as Raptor out
of game shape, as his play tailed off toward the end of games. His footwork
around the basket is in dire need of help as well, a visit to Pete Newell's
School for big men might serve him well this summer. Good defense is not one
of Wright principal attributes either, as he is prone to mental lapses at
the defensive end of the court. 
        Although Wright's game has many weaknesses, with his big body, soft
hands, and diverse offensive repertoire, Wright has the talent to develop
into a more than competent NBA Centre for a long time.
        Isiah was often quoted as saying that the play of Croatian Zan Tabak
was the biggest surprise for the Raptors this season. Unearthed from the
deepest recesses of the Houston Rockets bench in the expansion draft, Tabak
developed into a serviceable back-up with the Raptors this season. In the
mold of a classic finesse center, the 7-0 Tabak can run the court as well as
any center in the NBA (next to Robinson and Olajuwon, of course), can hook
with either hand from the low block, and has a nice touch out to 15 feet.
Like so many of the Europeans in the NBA, Tabak doesn't like to mix it up in
the paint -- he must regularly be told to take the ball strong to the basket
for a power dunk instead of laying it up softly off the glass.
Defensively, Tabak scares no one. He's not much off a shot-blocker or
rebounder, although those elements of his game did progress toward the end of
the season. After Wright was acquired from the Sixers, Tabak saw some action
at the power forward position. With his agility and light 245-lb. frame, a
permanent move to the 4-spot might be in the cards for Tabak next year. 

        Oliver Miller enjoyed the finest season of his four-year career with
the Raptors in '95-96. Long the butt (no pun intended) of jokes around the
league for his eternal 'battle with the bulge', Miller turned the jeers into
cheers this season with his steady play in the post. Miller was one of a
select group of players in the NBA to finish the season with over 100 blocks
and 100 steals. Not only did Oliver lead the Raptors in FG%, rebounds, and
blocks, but he also wound up a surprising second in steals, games played, and
        Miller's talent has never been questioned around the NBA. Though he
stands only 6-9, Oliver has the wingspan of a seven footer which he uses to
block an amazing number of shots from impossible angles. For a man of
greater than 300 lbs, Miller is surprisingly nimble on his feet and can fill
the lane on the break. Next to Arvydas Sabonis, Miller is probably the best
passing big man in the NBA. He seemingly has eyes in the back of his head,
firing bullet passes with his back to the basket to a cutting teammate for a
dunk. He throws an exceptional long outlet pass, which leads to easy fast
breaks. However, Miller regularly falls into the trap of looking to pass too
much, which, all too often, results in unforced turnovers. Unfortunately,
aside from his passing his post-up offensive is very raw. Oliver is blessed
with wonderfully soft hands, but his jump shot is very flat and erratic. He
doesn't look for his offense enough either, doesn't take the ball strong to
the basket, and misses a surprising number of layups in tight to the basket.
Most of these flaws in his game can be attributed to immaturity, which
Oliver can exhibit in excess, at times. Never shy to speak his mind, Miller
often plants his foot firmly in his mouth, both on and off the court. 
        Miller exercised the escape clause in his contract at the end of
this season and is a free agent. The Raptors were scheduled to pay him $2.4
Million and at this point it is uncertain whether or not the Raptors will
resign him. Their first priority is to resign Tracy Murray, and with little
room left under the cap, Miller's situation is up in the air. With the prize
crop of free agents this year, I'm not sure how much interest Oliver will
attract on the open market. However, Miller is only 25 years of age and
Isiah would be wise to make any moves needed to resign him.
        As unlikely as it may sound, Acie Earl holds a share of the Raptors
record for highest score in a single game, with 40 points against the
Celtics late in the season. Don't be fooled, Earl was not a regular
contributor in the Raptor rotation this season. Instead he was pressed into
service late in the season when the Raps suffered a flood of injuries and
surprisingly put up big numbers at the offensive end of the court. Although
he has a nice touch around the basket and a fairly consistent turnaround
jumper, for some reason he thinks of himself as the next Hakeem Olajuwon
when he touches the ball in the post. The quintessential "black hole" -- the
ball never returns when it is thrown into Acie Earl.  He's very
awkward-looking and unorthodox, he doesn't run the floor well and lacks agility.
        Defensively, Earl is an absolute mess. He's too light and too short
to play the center position, and too immobile and awkward to play the power
forward slot regularly. Earl was good shotblocker at Iowa but he has yet to
show that aspect of his game with the Raptors. He's also very flat-footed on
defense and doesn't move well on defense around the hoop. If Miller flees to
free agency, Earl may be pressed into greater duty next season. But if he
plays more than 15-20 minutes/game, the Raptors are in deep, deep trouble.
        There are few guys in the NBA stronger than Dwayne Whitfield. At
6-8, 265 lbs. Whitfield looks more like a defensive lineman than a power
forward. Released after training camp, the Raptors brought Whitfield back to
the club when they dealt away or released Tony Massenburg, Ed Pickney, and
John Salley. Whitfield didn't see much time as a Raptor, knee problems
hampered his development throughout the season. He has a chance of sticking
with the club next year, he showed well in a game against the Knicks late in
the season when he scored 16 points and pulled down 12 boards. Whitfield's
game is very raw, he might be a project worth keeping around for another
year or two.
      One of the most improved players in the league this season, Tracy
Murray went from being a non-descript bench filler for Portland and Houston
to being one of the most feared long-range shooters in the NBA with the
Raptors. Signed to a league-minimum contract at the end of training camp,
Murray began the season as the Raptors' "instant offense" off the bench as
the team's 6th man. When Willie Anderson was moved to the Knicks, Tracy
stepped into the starting small forward spot and gained confidence as the
season progressed. He quickly became the second-most popular Raptor, behind
only Damon Stoudamire, finishing second in scoring at 16.2 ppg.
        Tracy Murray benefited more than any of the other Raptor retreads
from the increased playing time on an expansion team. All aspects of his
game developed steadily as the season progressed. Known primarily as a
long-range marksman coming out of UCLA, Murray showed everyone this season
that there was more to his game than the 3-point bomb. Murray surprised many
with his rebounding ability -- when Wright went down with a injury late in
the season, he picked up the slack on the defensive glass, averaging close
to a double-double in points and rebounds over a prolonged stretch. He's
also a steady if not spectacular ball-handler and passer,  who showed that
he can create his own shot and find the open man in the half court set. 
        Unfortunately, Murray can  be a liability at the defensive end of
the court. Tracy is not blessed with good foot-speed, as quicker players will
often blow by him on a drive to the basket. He's not very tall for a small
forward either, at 6'7",  he  can be posted up by taller small forwards.
Defense will never be a strength for Murray, as hard as he works, he simply
doesn't have the natural athletic ability to be a good  defender in the NBA.
In time, the Raptors might be best served in using Murray as a sixth man off
the bench, where his long-range shooting can provide instant offense, and
his defensive shortcomings can be more easily masked. But first, the Raptors
have to re-sign Murray. He's a free agent and is certain to draw interest
from other teams, considering the dearth of pure shooters in the NBA. Murray
has loyalty to Isiah and the Raptor organization for having picked him up
off the scrap heap and breathed life into his sagging career, and Isiah has
already stated the resigning him is his No.#1 priority, so he should be back
in the Raptor lineup next season.      
        Acquired as the centerpiece for the Raptors in the B.J. Armstrong
deal, Carlos Rogers failed to live up to expectations in his first season
with the Raptors. Blessed with terrific athleticism for a man close to seven
feet in height, Rogers can run the floor like a gazelle and swoop to the
basket for a power dunk. With his long arms and quick leaping ability,
Rogers can be a dominating shot-blocker like Olajuwon or Robinson. Carlos'
talent has never been questioned --- but the jury is still out on his
maturity, heart, and work ethic. 
        The Raptors tried to make Rogers into a small forward early in the
season. The experiment failed miserably. Unable to keep defenders at bay
with his weak jump shot, Rogers struggled badly in the Raptors' half-court
set. On defense, he looked lost having to guard players around the
perimetre. By mid-season, Rogers found himself squarely in Coach Brendan
Malone's doghouse, averaging less than 10 minutes of floor time per game.
Rogers made the situation even worse by shooting his mouth off to the media
about his lack of playing time, showing the immaturity that made him
expendable to the Warriors after only one season in the Bay Area.
       However, Carlos' fortunes picked up toward the end of the season.
When Massenburg and Pickney were dealt, and Sharone Wright and Zan Tabak
went down with injuries, Carlos was shoved into the starting power forward
role. Rogers embraced the role with a renewed zest and performed well. He
seemed more at ease using his quickness to block shots under the basket and
then filling the lanes on the break. But the same lingering flaws with his
game as a power forward popped up again -- at 220 lbs over his lanky 6'11"
frame, Carlos was pushed around easily under the basket, and with no game
with his back to the basket and no consistent outside shot to speak of,
Rogers looked like a pilon in the half-court offense. 
        I think Isiah and the Raptor brass see Rogers as a small forward in
the long-term. He's locked into a long-term contract and with his reputation
as a head-case and trouble maker, he's probably untradeable. If Rogers can
work on his jump shot in the off-season, he might develop into a poor man's
Robert Horry.

        In the nasty public power struggle between Isiah and Brendan Malone
near the end of the season, Malone openly questioned the makeup of the team,
complaining about the *5* off-guards on the Raptor roster -- Christie,
Robertson, King,  Esposito, and Lewis. Though it ultimately cost him his
job, Malone did have a point.
        Doug Chrisite figures to be the starter at this spot next season.
Another of the Raptors reputed 'misfits', Christie was picked up from New
York at the trading deadline for Willie Anderson and Victor Alexander. After
shaking off the rust from his long-term stint on the Knick bench, Chrisite
showed flashes of talent toward the end of the season. He's big enough,
athletic enough, and handles the ball well enough to play three positions
-- SG, PG, & SF -- but he's best off as a 2-guard. On offense, Chrisite has
the bad habit of putting his head down and taking his man one-on-one instead
of looking for his teammates. He can drain the three, though he's probably
more of a slasher than a pure shooter. Like so many of the Raptors, Chrstie
turns the ball over far too often. Christie is an above average defender. In
the Raptors victory over the Bulls, he gave Michael Jordan fits. Chrisite
has got the talent to be an NBA regular, but he's not gifted enough in any
one aspect of the game to be a star. If he continues to develop, he could be
a good third or fourth guard in the Raptor rotation.
        At 33, Alvin Robertson was the only Raptor left on the roster at the
end of the season over the age of thirty. He's the team's emotional leader
-- with his tireless work ethic and hustle, he sets the example for the rest
of the Raptors to follow. Although he's lost a step or two, he's still an
excellent defensive player. Despite having his minutes significantly reduced
in the second half when the Raptors decided to go with a youth movement,
Roberston managed to finish in the top 10 in the NBA in steals. His offense
is erratic, but he can still get out and finish on the break. He's a free
agent in the off-season and it's uncertain as to whether or not he'll return
to the Raptors. Alvin is close friends with Isiah, and Thomas has publicly
suggested that Roberston will have a role in the Raptors organization when
his playing days are finished, if he so desires. If he returns, he will be
the backup shooting guard, in all likelihood.
        Jimmy King had a non-descript first season with the Raptors. He
played like a rookie --- inconsistent and awe-struck, but he did show flashes
of potential. The fourth member of the Fab Five in the NBA, King will never
be a starter in the NBA. He simply doesn't have the ability to score
consistently enough to make it as a starter. But he's a very good defender
who works hard and handles the ball well for a 2-guard. The Raptors tried to
use him as a backup for Stoudamire at the point, but he looked lost, and the
team struggled with the ball in his hands. He's going to have to develop his
outside shot and impress at training camp in order to stick with the Raptors.
        The first player signed by the Raptors, Vincenzo Esposito, from the
the ranks of the Italian professional league, struggled miserably in his
first season in the NBA. When he saw the floor during garbage time, he
looked utterly lost in the fast-paced North American game. He was billed as
pure shooter coming into the NBA, but he had trouble getting his shot off
against bigger, stronger and quicker players. At 6'3", Esposito is short for
an NBA two-guard. The Raptors tried him in limited action at the point, but
he simply doesn't handle the ball well enough. It's unlikely that Esposito
will ever become an NBA player, at 27 he doesn't have the footspeed or the
talent to become an NBAer. But with two years and close to $1.5 million
remaining on his contract, the Raptors may be forced to keep him on the squad.
         Rookie Martin Lewis didn't get into many games with the Raptors.
Stashed away on the 'Reserve List' for much of the season by the Raptors for
being 'out of shape',  Lewis only made it into a handful of games when other
guys went down with injuries. When he did play, he showed that he was a
terrific athlete. At 6'6", Lewis has got good size and terrific leaping
ability. Only 20 years old,. Lewis was supposed to play for Eddie Sutton at
OSU last season, but the Raptors used one of their second-round picks
obtained from Golden State to select him. He's very raw, as his game is in
need of some serious polish in order for him to play in the NBA. But in a
league full of terrific athletes, Lewis' athletic ability stands out ---
which makes him a project worth developing.

        What more can be said about Damon Stoudamire? In his first
appearance in Toronto at the 1995 NBA Draft he was welcomed to the new
franchise with boos and cat-calls from more than 20,000 would-be draft
experts at Skydome who wanted Ed O'Bannon to be the Raptors' pick. How many
of them do you think still feel that way a year later? Amazingly, Stoudamire
never let the jeers phase him. Supremely confident in his own abilities as a
basketball player, Damon brazenly stated on draft night that he would turn
the boos into cheers by the end of the season. He succeeded in spades ---
with a Rookie of the Year Award in tow, to boot.
        At this point, Damon Stoudamire is the franchise. When the ball
wasn't in Damon's hands this season, the Raptor offense was hopelessly stuck
in first gear. Damon proved to be a very difficult match-up for most guards
in the NBA. Despite his diminutive 5'10" frame, Damon routinely ran circles
around his defenders with blinding footspeed and a lightning cross-over
dribble. Just when you think Damon's stuck in a corner and about to give the
ball up, he'll keep his dribble and blow by you for an easy layup. Even the
great Michael Jordan couldn't contain Damon. What sets Damon apart from the
other "little men" in the NBA -- Spud Webb, Mugsy Bogues, Tyus Edney, etc.
-- is his ability to create his own shot. If defenders guard too heavily
against the drive, Damon will pull up and stick the outside jump shot. Damon
has been criticized by some for being a 'shooting point', who looks for his
own shot before looking to create for his teammates. Much of the criticism
is unjust, Damon did average 9.3 assists per game this season, which is
testament to his ability to make his teammates better. 
        If Damon was guilty of anything, it was trying to force the play too
often. Like most rookies, Damon was turnover-prone. On an expansion team
with limited talent and few natural scorers, Damon often lost the ball
trying to create a shot that simply wasn't there. As Damon gains more
experience and Isiah surrounds him with more players with talent equal to
his, the turnover problem will undoubtedly improve. 
        Obviously, at 5'10", defense isn't Damon's strong suit. Bigger
guards can post him up and shoot over him routinely. But Damon's well
muscled and has quick hands, so he never makes it easy for guards to back
him into the low blocks. In a league filled with giants, Damon averaged a
surprising 4.0 rebounds per game, which speaks well for his desire to win.
Stoudamire has the perfect attitude for a point guard -- supreme confidence
that borders on arrogance. When the game is on the line, he wants the ball
in his hands. So do the Raptors. 
        . The Raptors went the entire season without a true backup for
Damon, and he was forced to log heavy minutes at the point. He developed
tendinitis in his knee towards the end of the season, which was another
source of friction between Malone and Thomas, as Isiah felt that Malone was
overplaying his prized draft pick. If the franchise is interested in
protecting its star player, a competent backup must be found next season.
        BJ Tyler never made it into a game for the Raptors. In the strangest
story of the year, Tyler fell asleep with an ice pack on his sprained ankle
and sustained nerve damage that forced him to miss the entire season. Tyler
is the wild-card heading into training camp. The Raptors are locked into a
long-term deal with him, but who knows if, or how much, he can play next year. 

II. My Selection

Ray Allen, SG, Connecticut. In a draft filled with immature underclassmen
loaded with talent, but equally loaded with questions marks, Ray Allen is
the safest pick. He's the most polished and NBA-ready player in the draft.
Allen was measured at 6'5" at the Chicago pre-draft camp last week and he's
a solid 205 lbs, the perfect size for a 2-guard in the NBA. There are few
players that have come into the NBA over the past decade with his
combination of size, athletic explosiveness, and shooting ability. Allen may
not be as athletic as Jerry Stackhouse from last year's draft, but he's a
purer shooter and a more natural scorer. He's very graceful out on the
court, with compact, economical moves that evoke comparisons with Michael
Jordan. Allen would be an ideal complement to Damon in the backcourt. The
thought of Damon driving the lane and kicking out to Allen and Tracy Murray
behind the three-point arc would strike fear in the hearts of coaches around
the NBA. Although Ray Allen does not fill the Raptors most immediate need
--rebounding -- he's the best player available and with an expansion club,
Isiah has the luxury of drafting on the basis of pure talent instead of
immediate need. There have been questions raised about Allen's ability to
create his own shot, since UConn set a bunch of screens to free him up, but
I don't think it's worth much concern. He's the only guy in the draft (next
to Iverson) that I can look at and say, "he's a surefire All-Star in the

III. Others Considered

Marcus Camby, PF, Massachusetts. Fills a more immediate need for the
Raptors. He would conceivably replace Oliver Miller, if Miller flees to free
agency. Camby has great skills for a guy close to seven feet in size. He can
run the floor like a guard, dribble the basketball, block shots, and score
with his back to the basket. I'm just considered about his lack of size
(bulk). Much like the TWolves treated Kevin Garnett this year, any team that
drafts him will probably have to start him off playing at small forward, and
who knows if he'll ever put on enough weight to make an impact at the PF
slot, or if he'll be able to make the transition to playing the perimeter.
There are too many question marks around Camby for my money, especially when
you add in the concerns some scouts have about his work ethic.        
Stephon Marbury, PG, Georgia Tech. It's unlikely that the Raptors would
draft Marbury with Damon locked in at the point, but Isiah has mentioned the
possibility of a two point-guard backcourt, much like the one he played in
with Dumars in Detroit. Marbury is a very good athlete who can shoot the
basketball and create his own offense. At 6'2" and with terrific leaping
ability, he might be able to get his shot off as a two-guard beside Damon,
but he'd have problems on defense against bigger checks. Marbury doesn't
seem particularly enthused about the possibility of coming Toronto to join
the Raptors, having turned down an invitation for a private workout. Just
what the Raptors need -- another head-case! 

IV. Who the team will probably take

        Shareef Abdur-Rahim would have been the likely selection, but he
decided to return to school for at least another year. If the Raptors keep
the pick it'll come down to a choice between Allen and Camby. A lot is
riding on the individual workouts this week. Allen is scheduled to come to
Toronto today (Monday) for a private workout and Camby is slated to come in
on the next day. Isiah hasn't really tipped his hand as to which way he's
leaning with the pick. Coach Darrell Walker came out and said a few weeks
back that he likes Camby's game and thinks he would fit in nicely with the
club, but it could all be a smokescreen, for all we know. The party-line
suggests that Camby is the favorite, since he fills a more immediate team.

        On the flip side, the Raptors could decide move the pick for player
and/or lower draft picks. Since it's a four-player draft, there's a lot of
interest out there for the Number #2 pick and Isiah has said that he's
willing to listen to offers. But his hands are tied with the salary cap; the
Raptors only have about $2.5 million left to play with when Miller exercised
his option, and that money is pretty much earmarked to resigning Tracy
Murray. If the Raptors do move down in the draft, they might look to select
PF Samaki Walker from Louisville or SG Kerry Kittles. Isiah has said that he
likes both guys, especially Walker, who he's bringing to town for a private
workout next week.

V. Other Offseason Moves

1) Resign Tracy Murray
2) Put a shovel into the ground for the new Air Center!
3) Lock Damon up to long-term deal.
4) Try to find a way to bring back Oliver Miller (looks unlikely at this
5) Repair the credibility of the franchise with the Toronto media after the
Malone-Thomas fiasco and a series of other embarrassing PR gaffes.


Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner