I've been thinking about this one for a while now, just wondering what the right timing would be to bring it up; today's Jack McCallum post at SI.com alluded to it with this paragraph:
The Blazers are good with plans. They had one before the Ping-Pong balls brought them Oden: to remake a team that had lost its nestling spot in the warm bosom of loyal Portland fans, having earned the sobriquet of Jail Blazers through the on-court and off-court misadventures of players such as Rasheed Wallace, Isaiah Rider, Damon Stoudamire, Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson, Zach Randolph, Qyntel Woods and Darius Miles. Pritchard (who arrived in 2004 as director of player personnel and was named G.M. late in the '06-07 season) and McMillan (who became coach before the '05-06 season) wanted to rebuild with what Pritchard calls "character guys." So far it has worked, not least because Pritchard pulled off some draft-day magic to get solid citizens Aldridge (from the Bulls) and Roy (from the Minnesota Timberwolves). Perhaps that karmic improvement was the reason the Blazers won the '07 lottery despite having only a 5.3% chance to do so.
In other words, we were on track for a resurgence without nailing that #1 pick, and last year's improvement proved it, showing how much better we had become without factoring in Oden.
However, even though we got a look at what our progress would be like without Oden, it didn't show us what we'd have instead of Oden (had the lottery played out the way The Odds dictate): the #6 pick in the draft.
So what I've been wondering is, what would we have done with the #6 pick? I wanna hear all of your opinions, and I'm gonna make some key assumptions:
- All 6 teams (Portland included) just straight-up pick at their positions, with no trades (yes, that's right - no voting for "Trade up to #1 and get Oden anyway", DUH).
- Our other key moves happen: We buy the rights to Rudy Fernandez as the #27 pick from Phoenix, we're set on re-acquiring Blake as a free agent, AND we do the Zach-for-the-BoG-and-Steve-Francis-buyout deal. So, take into account that Blake is coming back, Rudy is still in the long-term Blazer picture, and Zeeba Neighba is oh you tee OUT.
- Otherwise reset our roster to where it was at circa summer 2007. That means our centers are Przy, Raef, and . . . uh, I don't know (we do get Channing, remember, so LaMardridge is available to play some center). I guess this is what we got 41 wins with last year, huh? And guards and forwards are pretty much still as they are now.
- The top six picks go in order of finish, as if there was no lottery.
- Try to employ minimal hindsight; don't judge draftees by how they played last year, just rate them by what they had shown as of June 2007, as non-NBAers. This is gonna make it REALLY hard with some guys near the bottom of my POLL list being top-8 quality as NBA players.
That said, here's how I see it playing out, with the forecast in two steps:
Step One: Who's Off The Board
#1 and #2 picks (to Grizzlies and Celtics) - Odurant. I defy anyone to think either one would've slipped.
#3 (to Milwaukee) - Al Horford, who went here anyway, to Atlanta. He came on strong in the draft workouts, and there were even some people weighing him against Durant. On top of that, he fills exactly the same power forward need the Bucks were hoping to fill (but failed) when they settled for Yi Jianlian with their real-life #6 pick.
#4 (to Atlanta) - Didn't they still need a point guard? Why yes they did. So Conley STILL goes here, as he did in reality to Memphis. The #11 pick Atlanta used on Acie Law IV would be affected, of course, but they'd still go Conley over Acie, easy.
#5 (to Seattle) - And whaddya know? Jeff Green went here, to Boston, and was the main piece Boston got in return for Ray Allen. I'm guessing that Seattle had him targeted, and with this pick, they take him anyway. Heck, in a no-Durant scenario, this small forward is even MORE of a shoe-in. (Too bad; before the lottery swung Oden to us, Green is the guy I was clamoring for. But I have him off the board, dammit.)
Okay, so far, the same 5 picks, in the same order, just to entirely different teams. That made sense. Now . . .
Step Two: Who We Pick From Who's Left
Who's left (ten-deep, in order of how they were picked, and now it's POLL time):
WOW, that's a lot of undersized forwards . . .
The Blazers are on the clock with the #6 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, and Oden, Durant, Horford, Conley and Green are off the board. Who do you take?
Yi Jianlian (F, China, 6-11, 238) (34 votes)
Corey Brewer (SF, Florida, 6-9, 185) (80 votes)
Brandan Wright (F, UNC, 6-9, 205) (22 votes)
Joakim Noah (F/C, Florida, 6-11, 232) (49 votes)
Spencer Hawes (C, Washington, 7-0, 230) (29 votes)
Acie Law IV (PG, Texas A&M, 6-3, 195) (12 votes)
Thaddeus Young (F, Georgia Tech, 6-8, 220) (47 votes)
Julian Wright (F, Kansas, 6-8, 225) (14 votes)
Al Thornton (F, Florida State, 6-8, 220) (98 votes)
Rodney Stuckey (SG, Eastern Washington, 6-5, 205) (74 votes)
Nick Young (SG/SF, USC, 6-6, 200) (3 votes)
462 total votes