Examining Potential Blazers Picks Day 1: Using What We've Got

Today we begin looking at potential Blazer draft picks.  We'll run the gamut of possibilities before next Thursday but we're going to start by drawing on the work of our own Ben Golliver and his Draft Board 2.0, found right below this post.  We're assuming in this post that the Blazers will stay with 24 plus their second-rounders or only move up moderately and thus will be drafting one of the guys they've actually brought in for workouts. 

We're going to run down the top of Ben's Draft Board in order.  The links I'll give you are all from DraftExpress.com.  It's not only the most comprehensive site I've found, the folks there are usually pretty accurate.  More importantly, even when you read other places you won't find too many people contradicting them.  If you want a handy distillation, that's the place to go.

Omri Casspi, 6'8", 220lb projected SF from Rehovot, Israel       Draftexpress Profile

Why the Blazers Might Draft Him 

Casspi fills several of the traditional criteria for Kevin Pritchard picks.  He's tall for his position.  He's athletic.  He has confidence and the right attitude.  He wants to be in the league and has motivation to succeed, being the first player from his country to play in the NBA.  Though it's hardly a deciding factor, bringing an entire new nation of fans to the team who picks him doesn't hurt his prospects either.  We've seen the Sergio, Rudy, and Batum waves come through.  The Casspi effect would be icing on the cake.

Several of Casspi's strengths address Blazer needs.  He's a runner and a finisher.  He's tough and pretty well built.  He looks like an athlete.  He's going to try to score when he's on the floor.

Rising stock as the draft approaches is the norm for most draftees.  It's human nature even in a supposedly weak draft.  Let's say you had planned to go to Disneyland for vacation but because of budgetary constraints you could only go camping at the state park.  At first you're going to be disappointed.  But as the trip approaches you're going to get jazzed anyway and start thinking about the fun you will have camping.  The same thing happens to these draftees.  In the wide view they're not likely to be impressive as a group.  But as teams narrow in they're going to get excited about getting one.

You want to look for the guys whose stock is rising farther and quicker than the average.  Casspi appears to be one of those guys.  Once a team works with him the media and fans start to buzz.  Yes, he's an interesting story but usually in these cases smoke indicates fire.  He's a solid threat to go in the teens.  Finding him at or near 24 would likely be considered a good value.

Why He Might Not Be the Guy

First of all, a small forward?  Really?  Omri, I'd like you to meet Martell Webster, Nicolas Batum, and Travis Outlaw.  Martell, Travis, Nic, this is Omri.

"Hey rook.  Fetch our luggage."

"Ah yes.  I have heard of this.  It is the rookie ritual, is it not?"

"No.  You'll be doing it until your rookie contract expires."

"Oh.  This is not as I expected.  But I look forward to playing with you anyway."

"Playing?  Who said anything about playing?"

I know you draft the best player available.  You don't go for need in the draft.  But that doesn't change the fact that we need another 20-something small-forward like we need a second Blaze.

Casspi is a small forward who needs work as well.  He's not a good ball-handler or passer.  He doesn't have a mid-range game.  He has developed an outside shot but he's learned it in a way that will almost certainly have to be re-taught.  From the March 8th, 2009 Draftexpress write-up:

Casspi has made strides with his perimeter jump-shot this season, converting on 17/44 attempts (39%) of his 3-pointers in the Euroleague and Israeli league combined, up from 30% last season. While his mechanics remain unorthodox (with a low release point and his elbow flailing out), he is shooting the ball confidently this season, getting his jumper off quickly and with a consistent release point, as long as his feet are set. Off the dribble, Casspi's poor mechanics hinder him from being much of a threat, which limits his offensive potential to a certain degree.

Low release point, flailing elbow, no escape dribble.  That's not good for the NBA.  It's even worse for the Blazers, who rely heavily on their forwards being able to shoot.

In many ways this guy sounds like Travis Outlaw 2.0.  They're different players, of course, but Travis had many of the same weaknesses and proclivities.  It's taken him six years to overcome some of them.  Some he still suffers from.  Having version 1.0 already I'm not sure we'll be willing to buy in.

Wayne Ellington, 6'5" 190lb projected SG from UNC        Draftexpress Profile

Why the Blazers Might Draft Him 

Like Casspi, Ellington fits the Blazer profile in a few ways.  He's a shooter.  He can hit when he's open, whether it's straight up or off the screen.  He can hit on the move as well.  He rebounds decently for his position.  He's reasonably tall.  He comes from a high-profile college program.  As a junior he has enough experience to contribute right away.  He should be an asset whether the team plays in transition or the halfcourt.

Ellington seems like the kind of guy who could slip lower than the Blazers draft, leaving the possibility of acquiring extra assets and still getting him and/or using a second-round pick on him.  On the latter basis he could be a steal.

Why He Might Not Be the Guy 

He's not a defender.  The Blazers already have a couple of shooting guards who aren't great defenders.  They're also far better offensive players than Ellington projects to be.  You're not bringing anything new to the table and not offering much of a chance of an upgrade.  Maybe if you were looking to move Rudy this might make sense, but even then the help seems marginal.

By most accounts Ellington isn't an NBA-level athlete either.  This isn't necessarily a bar to drafting him.  We've heard that about Blazer draft picks before and they've turned out fine.  But like Casspi he may find that his shot is bothered far more in this league than his last one.  He doesn't bring much else to the table besides his shot.  If you can bother him you've eliminated his reason for being on the court.

Chris Johnson, 6'11" 190lb projected PF from LSU     Draftexpress Profile

Why the Blazers Might Draft Him 

With Greg Oden hogging the post for years to come the Blazers are always going to be interested in face-up power forwards.  That's all Johnson is at this point.  He's got a jumper.  He can rebound a little.  He can block shots.  He's quick both on the floor and off his feet.  And you can't teach 6'11".  Playing behind LaMarcus Aldridge he can afford to be a project.  He looks like a decent risk for a second-round pick.

Why He Might Not Be the Guy

190 pounds.  Yeah...shooting guard mass, power forward position.  He doesn't need to add some bulk on his frame, he needs to add some frame on his frame.  He's going to have trouble guarding opponents in the NBA whether inside or out.  You don't project him to stay on the floor long because despite the height he's going to be on the bad end of mismatches.  He can't pass either, so when you give it to him you better pray that jumper goes in.

Danny Green, 6'6" 210lb projected SG/SF swingman from UNC      Draftexpress Profile  

Why the Blazers Might Draft Him

Green is another all-around player who might make the roster as a second-round pick.  He's smart, a good defender, and a good shooter.  He's tough enough, has a solid enough body, and has the size to play in the NBA.  He's not good off the dribble but if you're thinking small forward then catch-and-release is fine.  He's a senior at a great school and has the kind of experience/competition profile that the Blazers like.

Why He Might Not Be the Guy 

The whole "not good off the dribble" thing eliminates his shooting guard potential with this team.  Plus he's a safe pick who plays at positions where the Blazers would be more willing to take a risk, as the odds of any youngster cracking the rotation there are small.  Still, it's easier to see a guy like this getting drafted than some of the higher-potential players above.

DeMarre Carroll, 6'8" 225lb projected SF from Missouri   Draftexpress Profile 

Why the Blazers Might Draft Him

This is another second-round pick who knows how to play.  He's among the most efficient players in the draft.  He's a great percentage shooter, he draws fouls, and he rebounds.  He's got good height and played on a good team.  He's a senior.  He's got attitude and isn't afraid to go hard.

Why He Might Not Be the Guy 

He's yet another in a litany of small forward prospects under consideration, but really when you're talking the second round your criteria are different.  Any guy who has a chance to make it is a good deal.  The caution point with Carroll is that he's played power forward much of his college career.  He's too light to do that in the NBA.  You also wonder how much of his efficient offensive game will translate into the league.  A fair number of those shots came inside.  That's harder in the big leagues unless you're really good off the dribble.  With neither the defense nor the offense a sure thing his ultra-efficient game suddenly looks less attractive.

Tomorrow...what the Blazers could do by moving up a ways.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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