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Raptors send scouts to Italy to see Bargnani

5/24/2006 - NBA Toronto Raptors

TORONTO -- A day after winning the top pick in the draft lottery, the Toronto Raptors dispatched coach Sam Mitchell and senior adviser Wayne Embry to Italy to scout forward Andrea Bargnani.

General manager Bryan Colangelo and team owner Larry Tanenbaum have already scouted Bargnani, a 7-footer who plays for Benetton
Treviso.

"I'm not certain we would be sending Sam and Wayne to Italy if
we had the No. 5 pick," Colangelo said Wednesday.

The Raptors (27-55) jumped four spots in the pingpong ball lottery to snag the first pick in the June 28 draft to be held in New York.

Colangelo also mentioned Texas center LaMarcus Aldridge, Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison, Washington guard Brandon Roy, Connecticut forward Rudy Gay and LSU forward Tyrus Thomas as candidates for the
No. 1 pick.

He said the draft lacks a franchise player like LeBron James or Tim Duncan.

But he's clearly high on Bargnani and is even considering hiring
Benetton GM Maurizio Gherardini as Toronto's new assistant GM.

Bargnani averaged 11.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in his first 22 games in Italian league play. The 20-year-old often gets compared to Dirk Nowitzki because of his versatility and smooth jumper.

And though the Raptors already have power forwards Chris Bosh
and Charlie Villanueva, Colangelo says he'll take the top player no
matter the position.

"We're not good enough to draft around positions right now,"
Colangelo said.

He said is open to trading the pick. One team has already
expressed interest, he said.

Toronto's most pressing need is an interior presence. The Raptors have about $10 million in cap space.

Colangelo was hired in February to replace the fired Rob Babcock. He was voted the NBA's 2005 executive of the year for retooling the Phoenix Suns, who won a league-high 62 games. He left
Phoenix after not getting a contract extension.