In response to jksnake99's diary post from last night, it does indeed look like we're headed for the bottom of the lottery--the 13th pick at the moment to be exact.
I think we'll continue to fight and win games, but the schedule is tough, and April is brutal. I believe we'll end up with around a 44-38 record--good enough in year's past, but not this year.
So, always with an eye toward who's playing well in college and elsewhere, I'm pretty excited to see that there are still some pretty good players available at the 13 spot.
Here's where things get a little dicey, though. What are our biggest needs heading into next season? After last night's game, it's pretty clear we could use a little better ball handling and decision making down the stretch. On the other hand, maybe if we had mopped up a few more boards earlier in the game we wouldn't have been in a position for a couple of turnovers to kill us ...
In my opinion, Brandon handles the ball enough in key moments of the game, Blake is steady enough, and we have enough guard potential waiting in the wings. I would much rather see what Sergio, Green, or Koponen are going to look like long-term before I reach for another unproven prospect at the guard position. Now, if a proven vet becomes available for the right price, then I'm all for it. Devin Harris would look great in Blazer uniform, but the price must be right.
So, if drafting more guard potential is not our highest priority, then I believe we have to look to address our lack of power at the power positions. I like Channing Frye, but the more I watch the team the more I realize that he duplicates LaMarcus just a little too much, and what we really need is someone to come in and hit the boards and score a few points in the paint. Channing has made a huge effort this year, but fighting in the paint is just not his game and that's okay.
So, with an eye to which players might be able to fill that roll for us in the future, I give you a few profiles from draft express. One link I found exceedingly interesting is the rebounding stats per 40 minutes pace adjusted . If we really want to address our rebounding issues, then this is a good place to start our list of draft candidates. And who is right near the top of that list? None other than Kevin Love ... currently projected as the 13th pick in DraftExpress's Mock Draft .
Now I know feeling's on Kevin Love are mixed in Oregon, but it appears to me that this guy has EXACTLY what we need coming off the bench. Check out his DraftExpress Profile , and take another look at those per 40 minute adjusted stats. Not only does he rebound, but he scores in the paint, shoots a high percentage, and he SHOOTS TONS OF FREE THROWS. I know his athleticism has been questioned, but the fact that he shoots so many free throws tells me he has a knack for drawing fouls. If you know how to position your body and the ball effectively, much like McHale used to do and Al Jefferson does now, then you don't have to be the biggest or most athletic guy on the floor--especially in a bench roll where you won't be facing the other team's best post defender. Not to mention those easy points from the paint and the free throw line, in the words of Charles Barkley, are exactly what this team needs to be a playoff contender. Finally, you can't mention Love without mentioning his passing ability, and who better to listen to regarding that than John Wooden ? Again, outlet passes like that would fit great with a streaking Travis or Rudy on the White Unit. From what I've seen, Rudy really knows how to get out on the break. Again ... easy points.
Next up is Darrell Arthur . You've always got respect KU players, as they are always very well coached. It's clear that Arthur could fill our need of a post presence off the bench, but the fact that his passing and rebounding abilities are questionable is worrisome. With Outlaw and soon Rudy on the White Unit, we don't need a finesse scorer (or black hole, as the profile mentions) in the post as much as we do someone to mix it up and do the dirty work. Arthur is certainly an athlete, and would be a great second option if Love is off the table, but for the type of game we play I'm not so sure he's a great fit.
Next of course would be Tyler Hansbrough . This guy worries me. I don't have much to back it up other than a gut feeling, but he really strikes me as a college wonder who is simply not cut out for the professional game--a Mark Madsen type. He cleans up garbage around the basket, and he certainly has heart, but he just seems clumsy with the ball to me. Unlike Love who draws his fouls with an array of post-up spins, jukes, and ball fakes, Hansbrough just bowls guys over--and that simply won't work in the pros against quicker, stronger, and bigger players. If I'm KP, I avoid the UNC hype on this one.
I'll wrap up with two players that really intrigue me right now that I would love to see the Blazers take a flier on in terms of a big guy we could bring in to push our players in practice, and to see if they could develop into that enery-type of enforcer off the bench--someone who won't necessarily get consistent minutes like a Kevin Love, but who we would put in when out team needs a lift in energy or to send a message. So in other words, these are two players I would target after we got the guy we want (which I believe is Love).
First up is Joey Dorsey . Currently projected at the top of the 2nd round, which coincidentally is right where we have a couple of picks. The ultimate energy player, he won't score tons of points or assists, but he'll grab boards and block some shots. In fact, he's the only player above Kevin Love in the rebounding per 40 minutes adjusted for pace category. Could be a great player next to Aldridge for defensive purposes--a Ben Wallace type, and about the same size too.
Finally, how about this Aboriginal player from Down Under, Nathan Jawai ? Here's a guy who is apparently blossoming against weaker competition, and who is young and has the body to compete in the NBA. If we simply don't have the roster space to spare for a player like Dorsey, I'd love to see us grab this guy and let him play overseas, much like we did with Freeland. He at least becomes a trading chip we can use later on if we can't use him ourselves.
How can we add two more front court players? I thought you'd never ask. Like I mentioned above, I like Frye, but his skills are a little redundant for us, and though the feel-good stories of comraderie are great to hear right now, at some point I think we need to add a little nasty. I think Frye and Jack might get packaged to a team, either as a means to move Miles or to bring other future considerations. I also like LaFrentz--he seems like a good guy, but he clearly doesn't add anything to our team on the court, so I think he's got to go. A buy out makes sense here because it won't hurt the team's cap flexibility after next season. These moves eventually allow us to have a front line of: Oden, Przybilla, Aldridge, Love, and a Dorsey-type energy player. That's some awfully skilled beef right there, and they all bring something different to the table that the team will need.
Our SFs continue to consist of: Webster, Outlaw, Jones, and Miles if we can't move him. That's 9 players so far, but probably only 8 that would be active on a game night.
Round out the roster with a guard lineup of: Roy, Rudy, Blake, Sergio, and Jack or Green or Koponen or someone else depending on if Jack gets moved or not. I hope we can find a young starter better than Blake and Jack, but I'd go to war with them in the playoffs without thinking twice if there isn't a CLEARLY better option out there that won't cost an arm and a leg. Just think of the PGs that have won championships in the last 15 years. Aside from Parker and Billups, you have guys exactly like Blake and Jack: John Paxson, Ron Harper, Sam Cassell, Kenny Smith, Jason Williams, Derek Fisher. Like I said, if there's a CLEARLY better option for us to move Frye, Jack, and Green/McRoberts/Freeland to pick up a young starting PG that fits our system, then great. But if not, I think Blake and Jack are enough ... barely.
In the end having a roster consisting of Oden, Prz, Aldridge, Love, Dorsey, Outlaw, Webster, Jones, Miles, Roy, Rudy, Blake, Jack, Sergio, and Green/McRoberts obviously means someone has to go. I like everyone we have, but numbers is numbers, and KP is going to have to make some tough decisions moving forward. This was my take, and I'd love to see us grab Love and Dorsey in this year's draft, but I know not everyone agrees. I hope this look at the big men in the draft was enlightening for you, and I'd love to hear any thoughts and comments below.