trailblazers

Five big men the Trail Blazers should pursue for 2012-13

Ilyasova/Humphries Viable Options

Portland’s front line was as thin as tracing paper and will unlikely get any better in a draft that lacks too many franchise-changers up front.

Anthony Davis will likely be the most coveted player in the draft regardless of who gets the top pick, and the likelihood of the Trail Blazers getting that pick is slim-to-none as one of their picks (from New Jersey) will be lost if it falls in the top four.

If the ping-pong balls do not reveal any surprises, the projected picks will be sixth and 11th.

1). J.J. Hickson

2011-12 Salary: $2.4 million

After getting banished to the bench in favor of incumbent big man Jason Thompson, Hickson was granted release from the Maloof’s asylum in Sacramento mid-season before getting picked up on the waiver wire by Portland.

In what boiled down to a 19-game tryout for all 30 NBA teams, power forward J.J. Hickson was tremendous for the TrailBlazers as he averaged 15.1 and 8.3 rebounds per game, after not putting up five per game down in California’s capitol city.

The 6’9″ forward would be an insurance policy to cover the inconsistent health of all-star LaMarcus Aldridge, if he decides to come back to Rip City.

J.J. Hickson

The Blazers should seriously consider re-signing J.J. this offseason.

2). Ersan Ilyasova

2011-12 Salary: $2.5 million

If you have not heard of Ersan Ilyasova, you are not alone. In what might be the best kept secret in Milwaukee, Ilyasova, 25, was the 36th pick in the 2005 draft out of Turkey.

He has played four total seasons in the NBA after stints in the NBDL and Europe, but has played three of them consecutively since 2009.

His emergence was one reason why the team was comfortable with trading former number one pick Andrew Bogut to Golden State for guard Monta Ellis mid-season this year as the forward averaged 13 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

Ilyasova finished the year ranked seventh in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes. He is a terrific shooter with some of the most consistent percentages in the league (.492/.455/.781), but blends an element of grit in his game that Portland fans can appreciate.

3). Kris Humphries

2011-12 Salary: $8.0 million

Whether the Nets move to Brooklyn or Washington Heights, it will not matter where they play if they are unable to resign Kris Humphries, regardless of what Jay-Z thinks.

Despite being chastised as the league’s biggest villain this side of LeBron James and World Metta Peace for a highly-publicized failed marriage, Humphries averaged a double-double for the second consecutive season at 13.8 and 11 rebounds per game.

The latter total put him at fourth in the NBA in the category.

The 27 year-old is continuing to improve his game and is viewed as expendable if Brook Lopez can manage to stay healthy for an entire season, which could be good news for Portland.

In a town that prides itself as one that has different values from the L.A.’s and N.Y.C.’s of the world, this could be a perfect marriage if the Blazers are willing to empty the pockets on a player that could be worth close to $10 million.

4). Omer Asik

2011-12 Salary: $1.9 million

Similar to Ilyasova, Asik is another Turkish big man playing in the Central Divsion that is under the radar of casual NBA fans.

Andre Drummond

RIP City could move up the draft to get Andre Drummond if they choose to.

He has been a terrific role player off the bench for the Chicago Bulls, teaming with Taj Gibson to form the best backup defensive front court duo in the league. 3.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game do not scream for attention, but Asik would provide the toughness that the team sorely lacks.

This would be more of a move to secure their bench.

5). Andre Drummond

A BIG RISK.

The Connecticut Husky will likely be gone at number six depending on what version of a mock draft you read. That said, the team could move up the draft to get him if they choose to.

At 6’11” 270 pounds, Drummond played well in his freshman year, despite pedestrian numbers (10 points per game and 53 percent shooting) but displayed a level of athleticism that was rarely matched by anyone in every game that Drummon participated in.

Some compare him to Andrew Bynum. The question is: Do the Blazers feel lucky?

Honorable Mention:

Javale McGee (Restricted Free Agent, $2.5). About to get a huge pay increase after first round playoff series against the Lakers. Likely to be matched by Denver if given $10 million or less and will be a stalwart in the Pepsi Center for years to come.

Robin Lopez (Restricted Free Agent, $2.8 million). In the mold of Asik, but with a more recognizable name to Pac-12 fans.

Louis Amundson ($2.8 million). A scrapper on the glass that Larry Bird loves in Indy.

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