Can two draft busts help the Portland Trail Blazers rebuild?

What did Portland get at the deadline?

We all know the NBA deals that transpired last Thursday morning, and after a weekend spent drowning away my sorrows for the loss of Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby, its time to try to figure out what the new guys actually bring to the team.

Let’s start with the players who will bring nothing to Rip City.

It’s no secret that Portland made these moves with the thought of freeing up some cap space and building for the future. In the case of the trade that sent Gerald Wallace to the Nets, the Blazers were after their first-round pick, and the ability to shed some salary by taking on Mehmet Okur‘s expiring contract, and then negotiating a deal to buy out Shawne Williams‘ contract.

Therefore, both Okur and Williams, who are both hurt as well, will see no time whatsoever in a Blazers uniform; this is something all Blazers fans can agree is in Portland’s best interest.

The real benefit of trading for these two will reveal itself over the summer when Portland will have more money to use during the free agency period.

The Draft Busts

In Portland’s second trade, Camby sent to Houston for Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn, the Blazers acquired two top-ten draft picks from the 2009 draft.

Just two NBA seasons removed from that draft and both players have begun to don the “draft bust” moniker.

Both Thabeet, taken 2nd overall by the Memphis Grizzlies, and Jonny Flynn, 6th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, have severely underperformed during their time in the Association.

Thabeet’s lack of self-motivation, and just overall laziness, had led to Memphis quickly parting ways with the former UCONN star, allowing him to spend this season warming the end of the bench for the Rockets; a role Thabeet will likely play for the Blazers.

Thabeet should be available to play for Portland Tuesday night against the Bucks, as the trades were just finalized this past weekend, pending physicals.

Trailblazers Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet

Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn - (Photo Credit Bruce Ely, The Oregonian)

What the 7’3″ center brings to Portland should be roughly 5-10 minutes a night, scoring no more than around 2-4 points and possibly 3 or 4 rebounds.

With Joel Przybilla, Kurt Thomas and Craig Smith taking the bulk of the minutes, playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge in the front-court, Thabeet will be hard pressed to find minutes.

Jonny Flynn, on the other hand, could see a bit more playing time than Thabeet.

With Nolan Smith playing a more significant role in the Blazer offense, while failing to really solidify the reasoning why, Flynn could see some of Smith’s minutes thrown his way in an effort to find some more spark off the bench.

Where Thabeet has failed due to his lack of motivation, Flynn has failed to find the right offensive system to fit his needs. It hasn’t ever been a lack of focus, but possibly the wrong situation for the highly touted guard out of Syracuse.

Flynn could see around 10-15 minutes a night and should be able to contribute roughly 6-8 points and 4 assists, not a far cry from what we would typically see from Nolan Smith.

The difference here being Flynn’s familiarity with the NBA game, allowing for solid production on a more consistent basis. However, Flynn and Smith are both very similar players, and whoever is having the hotter shooting streak will see the necessary uptick in minutes.

So what happens next?

Can Kaleb Canales make Jonny Flynn relevant in the NBA environment, or will Flynn continue to solidify his status as a draft bust?

Will Hasheem Thabeet find success in his third attempt at an NBA career, or will this experiment crash and burn like it did in Memphis?

Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks will not be able to answer all the questions we may have about the new Blazer additions, but it will provide some insight in to the new blend of chemistry this team will be displaying the rest of the year.

As rough as it may be to tune in over the next couple of months, all of Rip City will be curious to see the direction Portland is headed over the course of the next year.

And hey, maybe in two weeks I’ll be writing about the Flynn-sanity in Portland.


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About Rick Stella

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