What might Portland do?
Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?
The pick, used on Ohio State center Greg Oden, would later come back to haunt the Trail Blazers franchise, and plagued a management team that had been so highly regarded after acquiring Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge, in the 2006 NBA Draft.
In a league where 7 foot centers are few and far between, could Portland really have passed up on a guy who could have been the next Hakeem Olajuwon?
If re-draft’s were reality, Kevin Durant would’ve been the clear #1 overall pick; although, since re-draft’s are a figment of imagination, and Kevin Pritchard was no Nostradamus, the Blazers were stuck with Elijah Price.
Oden, proving to be closer in legacy to Sam Bowie than Olajuwon, has made Blazer Nation very cynical when it comes to the NBA Draft; however, the Portland management hasn’t done much since the 2007 draft to make fans think much differently either (I’m looking at you Luke Babbitt, Dante Cunningham, Nolan Smith, and Armon Johnson).
So you can’t really blame anybody for half-heartedly looking forward to this year’s NBA Draft Lottery on May 30th.
Where did those ping pong balls fall?
Last Wednesday the Portland Trail Blazers found themselves in one of the more attractive positions in this year’s draft upon completion of the annual lottery.
Of course, winning the number one overall pick is the ideal scenario, but in a more realistic sense, seeing the Nets awarded the 6th pick (owned by Portland via the Gerald Wallace Trade) and the Blazers awarded the 11th pick, is about as good as it gets.
With the draft just around the corner (June 28th) and the real offseason beginning, Portland can finally start addressing its areas of greatest concern, vacant head coaching position aside.
So what’s Portland’s best move with picks 6 & 11?
Now this is the million dollar question, isn’t it? Recent general manager hire Neil Olshey has some huge decisions to make in regards to the direction Portland wants to go in the draft.
Portland recently worked out a pair of 7 foot centers in Illinois’ Meyers Leonard and UNC’s Tyler Zeller, and are leaning towards spending a first round pick on one of these two. While either one of these guys would provide a nice compliment to LA in the frontcourt, you have to wonder if Portland’s bad luck with big men will continue with either Leonard or Zeller.
Speculation aside, Zeller, or Leonard, should only be considered with Portland’s 11th pick, which still begs the question as to what Portland should do with their 6th pick.
Does Portland draft competition for Felton?
Point guard is a giant area of concern as it relates to Portland’s lineup, starting and bench players considered. While Raymond Felton was supposed to pick up where Andre Miller left off, Felton left much to be desired during the 2011-12 campaign.
Failing to live up to the hype he had created for himself while a member of the Knicks and Nuggets, Felton quickly fell in to Blazer purgatory, causing fans to clamor for some kind of change.
Well here’s the change the fans so desperately wanted, and there’s an opportunity for Portland to draft one of the two quality point guards in this year’s draft.
Kendall Marshall, a 6’4″ point guard out of the University of North Carolina, doesn’t quite possess the kind of talent Kyrie Irving did in last year’s draft but he could prove to be the fit Portland needs for their offense.
Considered a pass first point guard, Marshall would be the kind of distributor Felton only dreams of being, and one that could help Portland’s offense truly flourish.
The dark horse point guard selection in this year’s draft (but gaining popularity each day), is Weber State point guard Damian Lillard. At 6’2″ he lacks in height to Marshall, but makes up for it with his 185 pound frame.
Lillard plays the point guard position with a style reminiscent of one Derrick Rose, and should make the decision process that much harder on Portland’s management on draft day.
So what’s Portland’s move?
Neil Olshey will instantly gain, or lose, the trust of the Portland fan base with the decisions he chooses, or chooses not, to make during the draft later this month. Having pulled off the Chris Paul trade in Los Angeles last year, while steadily bringing the Clippers out of eternal NBA hell, he brings with him a reputation he’ll certainly need to live up to.
Portland is in a bit of a rebuilding mode currently, and should use the picks they have to draft the best available players for the positions they need.
This is in contrast to the notion that Portland trades away its two lottery picks to either move up in the draft (I don’t see the relevance behind this decision), or to acquire a veteran All-Star (this could make sense, but what All-Star would be the correct fit?).
With Portland reportedly courting Steve Nash, and a few solid frontcourt players potentially available in free agency (Kris Humphries, Ersan Ilyasova, Carl Landry), Portland should use their lottery picks and acquire rookies that they can continue to build around, along with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Even if Nash does decide to come to Portland, he won’t play forever (at least I really don’t think so, but it’s yet to be seen). So Portland’s best move with the number 6 pick should be to take either Lillard, or Marshall, to stock up on a young, pass first point guard for the future. As mentioned above, both guys possess the intangibles needed to really allow the Portland offense to flourish.
While it may be a bit of a reach to draft either one of those two with the number 6 pick, Portland can not afford to let them fall to any team between 6 and 11, effectively losing out on drafting for a position they so desperately need to fill.
As for the number 11 pick, here’s where it can start to get a little trickier. Do they draft a big guy to complement LA? Or do they bring in another wing player like Nic Batum, in the event Batum decides to play elsewhere in 2012-13?
The sleeper pick in this situation could be Baylor forward Perry Jones. At 6’11” and 235 pounds, he can play both the power forward and small forward positions, and could provide some versatility on the wing for Portland.
Let’s say Portland retains JJ Hickson (which they should), they could greatly benefit from having a wing player like Jones.
It’s also not a stretch to think that Jones would be available at the number 11 slot, and could instantly provide a scoring punch off the bench along with Nic Batum, if he decides to stay.
If Batum leaves, then Portland gets a very similar version of Nic, who could play a bit bigger than the Frenchman.
Are there greener pastures for Portland?
While the expectations for a rebound year will be high, Portland has a great opportunity in front of them to work towards fulfilling those expectations.
By bringing in some solid young talent through the draft, and scouring the free agent market for role players, Portland could return to the top ranks in the West.
It’s no simple task for newly minted general manager Neil Olshey, but the pieces are there to bring Portland back in to the limelight.