Portland Trail Blazers 2012 NBA draft love ’em and hate ’em analysis

PDX 2012 Draft Blog

The 2012 NBA Draft was a boring one for most Trail Blazers fans who expected significant splashes, as the team picked the two players that many local analysts had projected them to take assuming that they were still available.

There were no first round trades in general manager Neil Olshey’s first draft in the Rose City or any other splashes of note.

The team took away three players in the two rounds of the draft, two in the first with Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard as well as one in the second with Will Barton.

Here are some things to love and hate about the 2012 draft night as a Blazers fan.

Love ‘Em

1). Best Big Man

At number 11, choosing Illinois center Meyers Leonard or North Carolina center Tyler Zeller was the way to go if Portland wanted to select a big man.

From reports coming out of Tualatin at the Portland practice facility, Leonard dominated Zeller in their pre-draft workouts when both men came into workout. At a tad over 7’1,” former Blazers executive Tom Penn has called him as Joel Przybilla with a better offensive game.

Meyers Leonard

Choosing Illinois center Meyers Leonard or North Carolina center Tyler Zeller was the way to go

If Leonard plays as hard as Przybilla and can avoid the Blazers’ center injury curse, he will undoubtedly be a fan favorite for years to come.

2). Blazers Didn’t Get “Cute”

It was nice to see that Portland drafted players that were not viewed as unconventional in a negative way. By most projections, Leonard and Lillard were drafted at positions where many projected them to be selected.

While that does not necessarily guarantee success, the projections tend to be fairly reliable indicators of how most general manager and NBA executives view the players in the draft.

It was a positive to see Olshey pick up players that were not viewed as “high risk” such as Connecticut center Andre Drummond.

Hate ‘Em

1). Lillard was Not the Best Player Available

I am in the camp that believes that a team should take the best player available and address the needs of their team in the future.

That said, I do not think that Lillard was the best player available at number six, because Harrison Barnes (drafted number seven by Golden State) was still available.

As dreadful as incumbent point guard Raymond Felton was this season, they could have picked up a solid point guard in free agency (Kyle Lowry or Goran Dragic perhaps) or later in the draft (Kendall Marshall from North Carolina).

I am not thrilled with Lillard’s measurements (6’2 3/4″ and 189 pounds), despite his worthy accomplishments (Two-time Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, AP All-American Third Team selection, second in Division I in scoring to name three).

2). Is Lillard a Better Harold Arceneaux?

A guard / forward that is a two-time Big Sky Player of the Year from Weber State. A player that averaged 23 points per game in his senior season and 22.3 points per game in his junior year. A guy that dropped 40 in a game twice, 30-plus five times and hit 51 percent of his field goals.

You say Damian Lillard. I say Harold “The Show” Arceneaux. He is remembered for scoring 36 against North Carolina in a first round upset during the 1999 NCAA Tournament during his junior season, but was not drafted after a stellar senior season.

“The Show” never made it to the NBA and is currently playing professionally in Mexico. Given that Weber State plays about the same type of competition as they did a decade ago, I hope that Lillard will not suffer a similar fate as Arceneaux once his first NBA contract is up.

Damian Lillard

You say Damian Lillard, I say Harold “The Show” Arceneaux. (Photo AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

3). Will Barton

Second round draft picks are always crap shoots. That said, there are opportunities to pick up some players that can contribute to a quality team. San Antonio has had some recent successes with Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair.

In recent memory, Portland picked up Dante Cunningham, who contributed some minutes before he was shipped east for Gerald Wallace. 1990’s Franchise favorite “Uncle Cliffy” Cliff Robinson was a second rounder out of Connecticut.

Very few of the European players that the Blazers have invested in have ever paid immediate dividends.

That said, from the standpoint for an average fan, it would have been nice to a name that has some recognition for someone that may pay attention to college basketball in the states.

Tyshon Taylor out of Kansas at number 41 would have been this guy, but the Blazers sent him to Brooklyn immediately after drafting him for cash considerations.

Guard Will Barton, who the team picked at number 40 out of Memphis, did not do anything for me as a college basketball fan or as an observer of the Blazers. The reason for this is that Elliot Williams, a former Memphis Tiger guard, is expected to return at full strength for the 2012-13 campaign.

NBA Drafts are always left for hindsight when it comes to judging results. 

A general manager will rarely claim that he had a disappointing draft even if he believes that the team could have done better.

For Blazers fans there are reasons for optimism that Portland has some pieces to work with heading into the free agency period in July and training camp in September.


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  • Manruss

    I agree with your assessment of Lillard. Given that he didn’t play against anyone at his Blazers’ workout and he played at Weber State against second drawer competition, there’s not only a question about how good he will be at an NBA level, but how good he actually was at a Division I level, too. Too big of a question mark to warrant a number six overall pick, in my opinion. Especially with Barnes still on the table.

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