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Raptors turn attention to draft Add to ...

It's the NBA's version of speed-dating.

Over the next two days in Chicago, the league's talent evaluators and nearly all of the draft prospects and their agents will be in one place for the NBA's predraft camp.

And while players such as Oklahoma Sooners forward Blake Griffin - the overwhelming favourite to be selected No. 1 overall on June 25 - will be tested for speed, strength and quickness and later put through some light basketball drills, that's almost secondary to the personal interviews teams will have with prospective draftees.

"It's a chance to get face-to-face with people, ask some questions, get to know them a little bit," Toronto Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo said. "It helps to get a gut feel for the person."

Not that Colangelo will be relying on that alone when the Raptors, currently slated to pick ninth, make their call.

Adding their insights will be senior vice-president of basketball operations Maurizio Gherardini, assistant general managers Marc Eversley and Masai Ujiri, senior director of player personnel Jim Kelly and head coach Jay Triano.

Rounding out the party will be Dana Sinclair, a performance psychologist who consults with both the Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers, among other professional sports teams.

The off-court focus is an unfortunate necessity, however, as the chances to see players on the court in competitive situations will be limited.

Colangelo and the rest of the NBA's decision makers will get a chance to see the 50 or so invited players do some shooting and ball-handling drills in sessions this morning and tomorrow morning at Attack Athletics, a facility run by noted trainer Tim Grover on Chicago's West Side.

It's the first time the league has adopted this format and it reflects flaws with the previous system. The top draft picks would commit to doing physicals only on the basis that scrimmaging against players trying to work their way into the first or second round could only hurt them - either literally or by reputation.

Worse, the next tier of players - those projected to be taken in the lower half of the first round - also opted out of the scrimmages rather than create the impression they weren't sure-fire first-round picks.

This year's approach is considered an improvement because, with the exception of the top international prospects, nearly every player teams want to meet will be on hand.

But it's an imperfect system to be sure. As one NBA front office veteran put it, "It's a joke. It just proves how much our league is driven by players and agents."

The Raptors were invited to submit a list of 26 players they wanted to meet with, divided by their eight top candidates, their next eight candidates and then 10 more names.

In the end, the Raptors will meet with 18 players in interview sessions that start shortly after lunch today and go until about 8:30 p.m. local time each night.

"It at least gives us a chance to see and meet with some players we might not otherwise work out," Colangelo said. "You never know, a guy projected to go in the top five who won't work out for us in Toronto might slip down on draft night, and at least this way we've met him and have a feel for him."

Colangelo is also scheduled to meet with a half-dozen agents, among them Henry Thomas, who represents Chris Bosh and Anthony Parker. Bosh is eligible for a contract extension this summer and free agency next summer, and Parker is a free agent this summer.

All the meetings are preliminary, according to Colangelo, who does not have a meeting set with Dan Fegan, who represents Shawn Marion, the Raptors' other free-agent starter.

"I think more emphasis has been put on us meeting than is necessary. I'm meeting with Henry, but Henry also represents Anthony Parker, and I'm meeting with five or six other agents. It's very routine. It's not like I'm going to be coming out of the weekend with plans to trade [Bosh]or start drawing up an agreement for a contract extension. It's early in the process."

Bosh will be in Toronto next week. His website promises a "big announcement" on Monday, though he's giving no hints. Bosh will also be the honorary drawmaster for the Woodbine Oaks horse race on Thursday.

That coincides with the first day of the Raptors' predraft workouts at the Air Canada Centre.

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