Point-Counterpoint: Why I Wouldn't Trade Up and Draft a Point Guard

A couple posts below you'll find Ben's excellent and well-reasoned post arguing for the Blazers drafting a young point guard this year.  If you haven't read it, you should.

As I marinated the issue in my head over the weekend, though, I found myself wanting an alternative.  So in the spirit of fun and good debate, I'm going to present the argument that the Blazers shouldn't draft another point guard, let alone move up in the draft to get one.  We don't do a ton of point-counterpoint on the main page.  If it goes well, maybe we'll do some more.  Let us know what you think.

Obviously if the Blazers think there's a franchise-altering player in this draft and they believe they can get him, they need to do it regardless of position.  If Ricky Rubio is the point guard for the next decade for this team, by all means draft that boy!  In fact if I see the Blazers move up to choose a point guard in this year's draft, I'm pretty much assuming either he's the absolute bomb or there's a trade in the works somewhere.

Short of that, though, I'd say the Blazers should stay away from point guards in this draft.  In the short-term and long-term both, there are better ways to go.

Whatever you think of Steve Blake, he was not the problem at point guard for the Blazers this year.  He may not be the solution, but that's a different post altogether.  Portland's problem, which became readily apparent as the rotation tightened at the close of the year and on through the playoffs, was that nobody was able to spell Blake with any kind of reliability.

Even if you draft a point guard with talent and promise, he's not likely to be able to deliver the consistency needed for a playoff-bound team in his first year or two.  It's not as easy as it looks on paper.  We've spent first-round picks on Sebastian Telfair, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez, Petteri Koponen, and Jerryd Bayless and have yet to find a player who can produce on that kind of timetable, forcing the current (perhaps over-) reliance on Blake.   If you assume Jerryd Bayless being able to step up and fill the top reserve role he's basically learning on the job, having not seen significant minutes or meaningful situations last season.  Your alternate plan, should he not be ready, is an untried rookie.  It's the same, basic situation we have now.  There's no short-term gain or relief, just the same promise and the same liabilities with new faces.  In fact technically you have less experience behind Blake, as Sergio would presumably be dealt in this scenario.

Clearly if you go the draft route for a point guard you're banking on the future.  I don't think anybody would have major issues with Steve Blake going to the bench someday or even being dealt or released if multiple point guards blossom in the next few years.  But then you have to ask questions about those multiple point guards.  Specifically, what of the relationship of the new draftee to Bayless?  Both would be of the same vintage.  Both would come up together.  If you assume Jerryd is going to take over the lead role, what need for another pick used on a backup who will take just as many years to develop, especially if you have to trade up to get that pick?   If the guy is great, how is he going to find his way with Bayless needing the exact same minutes for the exact same purpose?  If the guy isn't great, why are you drafting him?

The way such a pick makes the most sense is as a vote of no-confidence in Bayless...assuming Jerryd is a no-go as our young, developing guard and this guy becomes his replacement.  I don't think anyone is ready to make that kind of assessment at this point.  We need to know more about Jerryd before we know if we need another point guard prospect.

From both short-term and long-term angles, you're spending assets to move up to get marginal gain.  In the short-term you don't move ahead or put any new wrinkles in.  In the long view you duplicate something you might already have.

For a much cheaper price you can go another route: a serviceable, minor veteran point guard drawing a modest salary.  You could get a guy in his early-to-mid 30's:  a Kevin Ollie, Chucky Atkins, Bobby Jackson-type.  He's not Bibby, Nash, Kidd, or Andre Miller but he doesn't have to be.  He has a role:  work cheaply, fill in behind Blake, have a clue what he's doing, and provide a measuring stick for Bayless.  If Jerryd beats him out for the second spot nobody minds a bit.  If Jerryd wins the starting role and Blake moves down nobody minds a bit.  But if Jerryd isn't ready you have somebody to play 15 minutes capably without the wind-tunnel-esque vacuum we experienced this year every time Steve sat in critical situations. 

As far as the future goes, this guy doesn't have one with the team beyond the current contract.  He's gracefully out of the way if and when Jerryd is ready to step up.  No conflict, no wrangling over playing time and development, no hard feelings.

The move is not nearly as exciting as the draft route, but the value in it is significantly higher.  You can make the move without losing anything you're not going to anyway. (Sergio?  Frye?  A minor contract offer?)  You don't have to worry about trading major young players for an aging star who might or might not carry you to the Promised Land before his abilities wane.  You can now use your 2009 draft pick, original or traded-up, to fill other needs.  Most of all, you give your team a type of asset it lacks currently without taking away anything down the line.  It's a subtle move, but it makes a lot of sense.

That's why I'd say the Blazers shouldn't draft a point guard at 24 or move up to get one unless they are fantastically positive that this is their dream player and fantastically positive that Jerryd Bayless isn't.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

P.S.  I know I didn't talk about Sergio staying the same way I talked about Jerryd.  At this point that looks unlikely, but if you'd prefer almost all of the same arguments hold if you substitute Sergio's name in there and assume Jerryd will be the one traded.

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