And not a cold, refreshing draft beer, unfortunately. Instead it's that cold dose of reality called the NBA draft. From one perspective (the right one) it hasn't been that long since we were looking to the draft before the regular season was even over. Yet, after such a magical season, I am left feeling not empty, but unfufilled. The 2008-2009 season will probably be looked back on as the appetizer before the real meal began.
The Blazers currently hold the number 24 pick, as well as 4 second round picks. Given KP's history, it seems distinctly possible that anyone the Blazers pick will never actually suit up for Portland.
A rundown of mock drafts around the 'net:
- NBAdraft.net has the Blazers picking Sam Young, SF out of Pittsburgh.
- Hoopsworld says it's going to be Chase Buddinger, SF out of Arizona.
- myNBAdraft.com thinks Tyler Hansbourough. PF, North Carolina. (Last year he would have been a sure top 10)
- Draftexpress says Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech.
- NBAdraftDepot thinks it's Austin Daye, SF, Gonzaga. (if he stays in)
- NBAdraftpress actually agrees! Another for Austin Daye. (Hmmm, maybe there's something to the guy.)
- Docsports thinks the Blazers pick at 23 (Is there an editor in the house?) and likes Eric Maynor, PF, VCU.
- Hoopshype also thinks Portland has pick #23, but says it's going to be Jrue Holliday, PG/SG, UCLA.
- nba.draftnation likes Austin Daye, too. (I smell a conspiracy...)
- College Hoops Update says Patrick Patterson, PF Kentucky.
And many many many more.
Even a cursory glance at a few of these mock drafts tells you one thing clearly: Nobody knows anything.
Tyler Hansborough bounces more than a metranome in every mock. In some, he's top ten. In others he's late late late in the first round. It's not just the bottom of the pack either. Blogs and websites are completely disagreeing 2-10. Actually, one even says that Sacramento would pick Ricky Rubio #1. Some bloggers do, apparently, crack.
As has been discussed already ad nauseum, the Blazer's most pressing needs are (no particular order of emphasis) Point Guard, Small Forward, Backup Power Forward.
1) Point Guard
I'm sure by now you've all read Ben's piece on O-Live where he takes Steve Blake behind the woodshed and gives him a good whuppin'. I find it hard to disagree with much. Yet with Sergio's recent commentary, this much should be clear:
The Blazers need to keep Steve Blake next year.
Unless Portland somehow trades into the top ten, there isn't going to be an impact point guard available. Maybe there's a guy with a lot of potential, but we drafted him last year. (You might have heard of him.) There also looks to be little help in the free agent market coming up. If the Blazers draft a point guard I'll be surprised. Not like KP hasn't done that to me before. I would therfore hazard that, barring unforseen circumstances, PG won't be the pick.
(You are not alone, Ben. I still come to the board meetings.)
2) Small Forward
- Nicolas Batum started almost the whole year, played stellar defense and shot a high percantage from deep. According to some, he can even dunk from the foul line. Keeper and a half.
- Travis Outlaw has been a legitimate 6th man cantidate for two years in a row. He laid a big egg in the playoffs, sure, but (stuff) happens, according to Forrest Gump.
- Let's not forget the Enigma, Martell Webster. Stress fractures in a foot bone, for a person playing a sport like basketball that constantly requires the foot to act as a shock absorber? Not good. But I will hold out hope until the Blazers get an independent doctor that declares Martell's injury career ending.
- And, really, even after that.
All three are under decent contracts that are workable for Portland. Having Martell coming back is almost exactly like a draft pick: it might work OK, it might be a complete bust, it might be the greatest thing ever. I'll take those odds with Webster.
With all that, will the Blazers fall in love with one of the Smalls in this year's draft? Maybe. If this does happen, the Blazers will probably trade one of their current 3s so as not to create another logjam.
3) Backup Power Forward
One mock draft will have someone top 10, and the next will leave that person off the list entirely. It's a crazy draft of epic proportions. Which is why it intrigues me so much. As I said before, Tyler Hansborough is shuffling faster than an overcaffinated Las Vegas blackjack dealer. The Blazers, assuming they let Shav, Frye, and Ruf walk (plus Raef) will have four open roster spots, and one glaring hole (juicy opportunity?)
Of all three question marks for Portland, this is the position that actually stands a chance of getting adressed properly through the draft. There are quite a few talented Power Forwards in this class, and it looks like some of them should be available at 24.
The Power forward we need should be strong, have a nose for rebounds, and toughness under the basket. All of the things that are missing from Channing Frye. (Channing needs to be a starter to be effective. Not for the Blazers, of course, but he'd look a lot better with 30 minutes a night and som rythm to his game) The Blazers need the antithesis of LaMarcus. An acid to Aldridge's base if you will. Rather than another finesse guy, pick a strong, tough rebounder to balance out the roster.
I would say that if Hansborough falls to them, the Blazers almost have to take him. There are some concerns, sure. But the Blazers wouldn't be asking him to be "The Man." Plus as a Senior who's played his entire career with a program like North Carolina, that's a lot of experience. A four year college guy is a lot like a second-year player in the NBA (see also: Roy, Brandon). There are many other cantidates too, but there will be a lot more information once the Playoffs are over, and teams can begin to bring guys in for workouts.
For all of this, though, one can't forget about the upcoming free agent class. While lacking the glitz of 2010, it has Antonio McDyess and Jermaine O'Neal looming as unrestriced free agents (among others, of course). Nate and Co. have been talking for years about adding a vet with a lot of knowlege to share, and who fits that better than Antonio? Adding a player like McDyess could be huge for the rest of the Blazer big men. Especially Aldridge, but likely for all.
What to do, what to do?