I think it is a good time to throw out an idea that has been ruminating in my head for about a week. Since this discussion involves draft pick, for the sake of the argument lets assume that the lower lottery draft order remains relatively stagnant.
KP recently said in an interview with Hoopsworld:
Right now Portland is 13th, and that isn't likely to change, just outside of KP's 2nd range of talent. So, what to do, trade the pick for a good veteran? Or, take a chance at trading up in the draft? Then again, the Blazers could just keep the pick and draft the best player who falls to them. All these possibilities deserve a good hard look, so here I go.
The problem with trying to trade for a vet is that when you look at the options and mechanics of a trade, I don't see how that is actually going to happen. It sounds good in theory, but especially when you look at PGs there doesn't seem to be a lot available (good PG aren't just traded), it will eat up 2009 cap space, and will require some money magic from Tom Penn to make salaries close. Ideally, the Blazes would receive a good player in return, and good players have large salaries. This would require more involved then just the pick, players would be needed to match salaries, which is a problem because Portland has very few disposable assets (McRoberts, VonWafer) and one huge expiring contract (Reaf) that is instrumental in a 2009 free-agent spending spree. If KP works something out more power to him (Like King or Absolute Emperor would be more deserving then GM).
Another option is stay at 13ish and take whoever falls. There will be many good prospects fall to this pick, players like D.J. Augustin, Darren Collison, Nicolas Batum, Kevin Love, Donte Greene, or Anthony Randolph (according to the wonderful sites draftexpress.com and nbadraft.net) could be available if they chose to declare this year. Of those Darren Collison or D.J. Augustin could potentially be an upgrade over the dependable and lovable Steve Blake at the vital PG position. There has been much support for Darren Collison (good read, comments are great with both sides of the story clearly stated) and Collison does look like a great PG prospect that will fall to our pick. But, I didn't post KP comments just to fill up your brain, I think this is where KP's risk comments come in.
By playing connect-the-dots, I think we can decipher the breadcrumb trail KP has left for us to follow. In the Hoopsworld article, KP indicated that risk was a major factor in the draft, every pick is like reaching into a black box and pulling out a NBA career, you never know what if you will pull out a Ryan Leaf or Payton Manning (before you point it out, I know it's the wrong sport). At Trail Blazers Courtside, KP disclosed that the way to reduce risk is to get one of the 7 to 8 impact players, because after that "your risk goes up." Each year at draft time every player looks like a sure-fire impact player, but in reality the same pattern repeats itself. Some live up their high billings, most disappoint softly, sleepers emerge, and others become ugly busts. Now the Jayhawks taught KP statistics good, while there is no way to tell who will be who (otherwise there would be no busts), outside of scouting, there is only one way to reduce your risk. To reduce risk you change the Black Box you pick out of... That's it. Lets participate in an exercise using the last 10 NBA drafts, simply pick the box you would want to randomly select a player out of.
Black Box #1: Corey Brewer, Randy Foye, Charlie Villanueva, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, Nene Hilario, Eddie Griffin, Chris Mihm, Richard Hamilton, and Jason Williams.
Black Box #2: Julain Wright, Thabo Sefolosha, Sean May, Sebastian Telfair, Marcus Banks, Marcus Haislip. Richard Jeffersion, Courtney Alexander, Corey Maggette, and Keon Clark.
Black Box #2 was the last ten 13th picks in the NBA draft and the players Black Box #1 where the last ten 7th picks (13th is were the Blazers are now, and 7th is just in KP's first tier of talent). As KP said, " We all like to say that we are basketball experts but in truth ... You just don't know exactly how it is going to turn out." While the Blazers have great scouts, their impact is limited, a kin to removing a Eddie Griffin or Keon Clark out of their respective boxes, it is still a crap-shoot, but the odds are better. It's not like the best players taken 13th were not as good as the 7th pick players, but there are a lot more of busts at 13th than 7th, so statically if you wanted to reduce risk you would pick out of box #1. To those of us detached from reality and in love with economic theories and statistics, this is the most reasonable way of looking at the draft. The 7th pick gets you the success rate of Box #1 and the 13th pick get you the same rate as Box #2.
Basically, I just gave you a long-winded reason why KP's risk assessment and his Trail Blazers Courtside interview means KP is looking to trade up in the draft. Now lets expand on risk assessment and why this course is superior to staying pat. This year will probably be the Blazers last year in the lottery for the next 10 or more years. The Trail Blazers are looking for a feather in their cap, one more player to help them win championships. This is their last chance to make the Big 3 into the Big 4 (or 5 if you include Rudy) before a decade of Playoff runs. KP knows that this pick maybe the difference between one championship banner in the rafters and a dynasty (that's fun to say) and he is looking for blood!
If you believed you were one great player from a dynasty, would you want to pick from Box #1, or Box #2? If I were KP, I would break open Paul's piggy bank, pile up our picks, make profession portfolios of our players (everyone not named Roy, Aldridge, or Oden), and make sure that every team in the top 8 gets the message that Portland wants to trade up. Just for that extra 20% chance of getting a great player, that extra 20% of having a dynasty (20% is an arbitrary number). Not only will trading up in the draft get us a better chance of the prospect turning out, but will also preserve the Blazers 2009 cap room, something trading for a good vet, and the probable large salary, doesn't allow.
Now, I've spent the whole time talking without any specifics, which is fine in the "long run", but this is a concrete draft with players who have defined skills and positions. So, lets look at the top of the draft. The 7 or 8 impact players KP was probably talking about are looking like Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Jerryd Bayless, Brook Lopez, O.J. Mayo, Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin, and Eric Gordon (maybe Russell Westbrook too) according to the draft websites.
One of the best arguments for staying at 13 is the best pass first PG's outside of Rose (D.J. Augustin and Darren Collison) will probably be there and no way will KP be able to trade for Rose without giving up a core piece. But, lets look at the blueprint/prototype for the Blazers. 5.8 assists doesn't sound like a true pass-first PG, but that is what Tony Parker averages this year in 34 minutes. Parker assists per 48 minutes only 8.2 (same as Mo Williams), but the Spurs have won it all with him as their "QB". So, what gives with Trail Blazer fan's obsession with pass first point guards? (See poll and tip of the hat to the astounding knickfan). What gives is the Blazers shoulda/woulda taken Chris Paul or Deron Williams in 2005, and like a lover-boy who realized that his dumped ex was the best he'll ever get, we've built a shrine and keep calling, begging for a second chance in 2009. Get over it! It is time to stop living in the past and instead settle down with the first passable substitute that comes our way.
If the Spurs can live with "fleet-footed, scoring PG" because they have a playmaking SG and a post presence, I don't see why Portland needs a pass first PG with a playmaking SG and TWO post presences. Half the time the Blazers point guard will just pass the ball into the post, and a quarter of the time Roy will have the ball. And running the pick and roll with an athletic big men with good hands doesn't require a passing wizard either, just look at Jemeer Nelson in Orlando. The Blazer nation should realize that having Mayo, Bayless, or Gordon would be an unbelievable coup and shouldn't be turn off because they aren't pass-first point guards (well, Gordon's true SG). I'll take a shoot first PG with a much better chance of become a solid player than Darren Collison with the smaller chance. I don't mean to pick on Collison, I just bring up his name because if we stay pat at 13th, KP would be crazy not to take a hard look at drafting him.
While there may be good choices at 13th, I think that the Blazers will try desperately to move up, not because there is a player who is a better fit at higher up, but because the chance that player will turn out is much higher then a lower tier talent. KP and his risk assessment talk (and the fact that he was probably scouting Bayless the same day as the Courtside interview) seem to indicate his intentions of moving up. Whatever KP's plan is, I know draft day will be fun.
That is all folks, weigh in with any comments, critiques, or your own interpretation of our much beloved GM's comments.