In the Eye of the Storm

Here we are in the relative calm after the twisting winds of the 2008 draft.  What a frenzied night (yet again)!  As someone who has lived in the Midwest and experienced tornadoes first-hand I can tell you that calm can be deceiving.  The outer edge of the storm makes you think that everything is going to blow apart, then you get in the middle and…no lie…it seems like everything is over.  You go outside and start assessing the damage.  Then some wise old coot yells out his window, “Better be gittin’ back in yer’ house there, Charlie!  She’s a-comin’ again!”  And you think, “Naw…no way it could be that bad.”  Then fifteen minutes later all hell is breaking loose again as the trailing end comes through.

That’s exactly where we are right now.  It seems peaceful, but hold onto your hats…there’s more coming.

First let’s look at the moves we did make, at least according to our best knowledge.  The NBA, in a bid to kill ratings in order to justify moving the entire league to Oklahoma City, has adopted a strict policy against announcing any trades that actually matter to any human being on the face of the earth (besides the mamas of the players involved).   Therefore while we are well aware that Splurd McHenry from Wannabee State has just been acquired for cash we have no idea of the disposition of Jerryd Bayless and Brandon Rush.  Well, that’s what it seems like anyway.  In reality some of these trades can’t be announced officially yet because they don’t work until salaries change July 1.

Here’s the expanded version of the moves:

Move #1:  Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts, and Brandon Rush (Pick #13) to the Indiana Pacers for Ike Diogu and Jerryd Bayless (Pick #11).

Move #2:  Darrell Arthur (Pick #27) and Joey Dorsey (Pick #33) to the Houston Rockets for Nicolas Batum (Pick #25)

Move #3:  Omer Asik drafted (Pick #36)  (Update: and then traded to Chicago for three second-round picks.)

Move #4:  Mike Taylor (Pick #55) traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for a second-round pick in 2009.

Here’s the compacted version:

Blazers acquire:  Jerryd Bayless (Pick #11), Ike Diogu, Nicolas Batum (Pick #25), three second-round picks from the Chicago Bulls, and a second-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers.

Blazers give up:  Jarrett Jack, Josh McRoberts, Brandon Rush (Pick #13), Darrell Arthur (Pick #27), Joey Dorsey (Pick #33), and Mike Taylor (Pick #55)

Here’s the practical version:

The Blazers netted Bayless, Diogu, Batum and four second-rounders and only gave up Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts.

Obviously the Diogu/Bayless for Jack/Rush and the Batum for Arthur and Dorsey moves are the major ones.  Before we get into specifics, a word on methodology.  In both cases Kevin Pritchard used a time-tested strategy known in draft circles as the “Yoink!” maneuver.  With D.J. Augustin and Russell Westbrook off the board Sacramento was going to pick Jerryd Bayless with the 12th pick.  With the Pacers already sporting Jaamal Tinsley and acquiring T.J. Ford a point guard probably wasn’t high on their list…until Kevin Pritchard got into their ear.  When you heard Bayless’ name announced at #11 the immediate reaction was, “That’s a trade!  Now who could the other party be…”  None of us were in the Kings’ war room of course, but when Bayless got picked they seemed kind of like a professional wrestler charging an opponent in the corner to flatten him, but then the opponent moves at the last second and the attacker gets a hearty helping of turnbuckle and ringpost.  The selection of the world-famous Jason Thompson from Rider as the 12th pick did nothing to alleviate that impression.  Then KP went to the well again in the 20’s.  All the pre-draft talk had San Antonio aiming for Nicolas Batum at 26.  As he approached and remained on the board you could almost hear them chanting, “Ba-tum!  Ba-tum! Ba-tooooooohhhh you son of a sea cook, you!!!”   Houston nabs him at 25, to be traded to the Blazers at 27.  Cost of moving up two slots?  33rd overall pick Joey Dorsey.  Feeling of nabbing the guy you’re targeting out from under your old team’s nose?  Priceless.  Somebody wrote me during the draft that a guy on a Knicks blog had dubbed Pritchard “The Hamburgler”.  In this case the appellation seems accurate.  Robble-robble.

I don’t think it’s worth writing much about the players we gave up.  Jarrett Jack was a nice player but he probably wasn’t going to fit here or be happy here long-term.  He was unlikely to start and since he was at his best while scoring he would probably never have a chance to flourish.  Josh McRoberts could bang a little and pass the ball but he wasn’t terribly significant.  I don’t consider any of the players we drafted as assets we gave up since all of this happened in the context of the same draft.  We never really “had” Brandon Rush, we drafted him to trade him.  You could say we lost the opportunity to play him but then you’d have to say we “lost” every player drafted 13th or later, as we theoretically could have taken any of them.  So basically this was a cost-free draft.  We didn’t give up anybody we weren’t going to trade anyway.

Now on to the players we got…

Jerryd Bayless  6’3 199lbs PG, 19 years old:  JB was rated very highly in this draft, widely considered the second best point guard behind Derrick Rose.  He’s quick, explosive, can shoot, can hit threes, can shoot free throws, can create for himself, and even plays a little bit of defense.  He’s got good size for the point position.  The knock on him is that he’s not a “pure” point guard like a D.J. Augustin.  Much like Jarrett Jack he likes to score as much as distribute.  He also needs to handle the ball to be effective.  These things seem to indicate a shooting guard, but he’s small for that position and would have trouble defending NBA twos.  Even if he’s basically a scorer, though, he’s still a serious step up in scoring from any point guard we have on the roster.  If he ends up starting eventually he will benefit from playing beside Brandon Roy, as Roy will take some of the pressure off of him.  There may be a bit of a tug-of-war over the ball, however.  Perhaps Coach McMillan can get a little of the “gimme” out of his game by the time starting becomes an issue.  The more likely role for Bayless right now is to provide scoring pop off of the bench.  In some ways he’s not that different than a Ben Gordon or Leandro Barbosa…players we were rumored to want earlier.  If given the assignment to score on the second unit, he should come through fine.  The finer points of his game may take longer to develop but the Blazers will probably live with that if he can add pop off the pines.

Bayless looked somewhat disappointed when interviewed on ESPN after news of the trade came out.  I would suggest that his disappointment was less about coming to Portland and more about expecting to be drafted fourth, in the place Russell Westbrook ended up going, then being drafted eleventh, then being traded on top of that, and down to thirteenth to boot.  His salary will remain that of an eleventh pick, of course, but I imagine his pride took a little bruising.  He’ll wake up in the morning, realize he’s coming to a high-powered, unselfish, upward-trending team that really needs him, and everything will be fine.

The long and short of it is we got a guy who very well could have gone fourth or fifth (and that’s legitimate, not one of those “this second-rounder really had first-round talent” statements) at number thirteen.  That’s a value move you don’t sneeze at.

You can see Jerryd’s draft preparation video diary courtesy of our friends at Dime Magazine.

Ike Diogu  6’8” 255lb PF, 24 years old:  Diogu is something of an underrated player as his stats have not been impressive in his first three years.  He started out well in Golden State, shooting around 53%, scoring 7 points, and netting 3.5 rebounds in about 14 minutes per game.  After he was traded to Indiana his production slimmed somewhat and his minutes decreased.  He was injured last year and only played in 30 games.  Diogu’s offensive game is pretty much limited to post and effort points.  He can shoot a little face-up jumper but he doesn’t take it much.  He’s a great rebounder, especially on the offensive end.  He’s a super-high energy guy, so much so that he has to be reined in on defense so he won’t commit constant fouls.  One of the big knocks on him is that he doesn’t know how to use his body effectively on either end of the court.  He often substitutes fury when a little calculated leverage is all that’s needed.  He also has trouble prosecuting offensive opportunities.  He’s not going to be a big-minute guy if he sticks with the Blazers but he gives the team a dimensions (craziness, energy, offensive rebounding) that they currently lack.

Diogu is in his third year, and thus is due a qualifying offer or restricted free agency next season just as Jarrett Jack was.  If we retain him through the summer of 2009 he will either cost $3.95 million for the qualifying offer, $8.7 million in a cap hold, or whatever we can renegotiate his contract for.  This is actually slightly more than Jack would have cost.

Nicolas Batum 6’8” 214lb SF, 19 years old:  Batum was coveted for his athleticism and potential.  He’s long for a small forward, can slash like crazy, and can defend.  He’s a runner and a finisher, which his highlight clips make abundantly clear.  He’s a team player as well, which distinguishes him from many scorers his age.  On the other hand he may be too much of a team player, as he is reputed to slip into a stupor at times.  He’s not a great shooter, not a ball-handler, and may have some trouble creating his own shot at this level.  He’s the type of player the Blazers will let simmer for a while, a la Travis Outlaw.  If he pans out he could be an amazing, seamless addition to either the starting lineup or the second unit.  In fact he could be exactly the kind of guy who makes opponents consider the Blazer lineup patently unfair.  The Blazers will probably have to wait a while for that potential to develop.  But it’s a good bet the fans just got a new cult favorite anyway.

Omer Asik 6’11” 230lb C, 21 years old:  I was going to go all blogger-ninja on you and pretend like I knew all about 7-footers from Turkey.  Instead I’ll just refer you to his DraftExpress.com entry as a place to start.  He won’t play in Portland for a while, if ever, but if he ever does make it over here it’s a sure bet that some will clamor for him to get more minutes instead of Greg Oden.  Those people, of course, will be chastised for their blatant Omerism.

Update:  Asik has been traded to the Bulls for three second-round picks.  Link

Analysis and Notes:

Jerryd Bayless is the centerpiece here.  If he becomes a key player this draft will have been a huge success.  If not the other guys probably won’t make up for it.  All indications are that Bayless will excel in some role, it just remains to be seen what role that is and how much the Blazers have to shift in order to accommodate him.  Portland is free-rolling on this draft, though, considering they lost so little.

You will not see the Rush/Jack/McRoberts-Bayless/Diogu trade made official until after July 1st because the salaries don’t match until next season kicks in.

Salary-wise we traded away around $4.2 million of 2008-09 salary between the Jack, McRoberts, and the #13 pick.  We took on roughly $5.5 million between Diogu and the #11 and #25 picks.  For the summer of 2009 we are on the hook for approximately $1.1 million more for Bayless and Batum than we would have been for Rush.  Diogu’s salary impact vis-a-vis Jack is impossible to determine without knowing what the Blazers would have done with each, but his base salary and potential cap hold are higher than Jack’s would have been, as described above.

In any case it’s far too early to give a final analysis of these moves, as they are not the last to be made.  Lamarcus Aldridge, Channing Frye, and Ike Diogu probably do not stay on the same team together.  If Petteri Koponen ends up signing with us then he, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless, and Sergio Rodriguez don’t stay on the same team either.  If Batum were ready to play then we’d have a problem with Outlaw, Webster, and Nicolas as well, but that’s unlikely to be an issue.  This means James Jones will not be back though, if there were a chance of that in the first place.  The truth is we don’t know which of these players we acquired to keep and which to trade.  We also don’t know which of our pre-existing players are on the block.  All we know is that the consolidation is not complete yet.  The back end of that storm is likely to hit soon…probably after July but sooner if salaries mandate it.  Stay tuned.

Overall Draft Grade:  A

Even if you don’t believe in the players entirely you have to admire any draft that nets this much potential with little cost.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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