The way that KP and the other NBA GM's repeatedly passed on DeJuan Blair in the late first and early second round of Thursday's draft reminded me of the feeding habits of certain species of trout. Under some circumstances, these trout will feed on anything edible that floats by. But at other times, they have absolute tunnel vision, zeroing in on a particular bug that's currently hatching--e.g. mayflies--to the exclusion of all other food.
When that happens, a fisherman lacking a mayfly imitation in his tackle box--of the exact matching size & color that the trout are looking for--might as well pack up and head home. He will NOT, under any circumstances, even get a trout to look at anything he drifts past him. The offering could be the trout equivalent of a steak dinner. No matter--if that trout is zeroed in on the trout equivalent of a hot dog with relish & yellow mustard, that's all he'll feed on.
That's what I think NBA GM's--including KP, our fearless leader--are sometimes like. Once they've zeroed in on a Pendegraph, you could offer them the next Michael Jordan and they'd pass.
Now, I realize that KP is the ultimate preparer. He has a plan in place for every continency imaginable. But this time, the unimaginable happened. After DeJuan Blair's negative knee report came out of the pre-draft camp, KP must have considered the possibility that Blair would drop to #22. But like everyone else, he apparently concluded that it was too risky to offer a guaranteed contract to an undersized four with two questionable knees. And it was probably unthinkable to KP that the best offensive rebounder in the draft would drop clear to #31--let alone #33.
So my suspicion (reinforced by Nate's post-draft comments) is that while the Blazers' braintrust certainly had done the usual basic research on Blair that they do on all players in a draft, they never did the kind of painstaking work-up they do on people they're actually targetting. I mean, the Blazers not only talk to these kids' coaches going back to AAU ball--they talk to their teammates, their neighbors, everybody who ever KNEW them. Lacking that kind of in-depth info on Blair, KP would have been loath to pull the trigger on him, even at #33.
Not so Buford over at the Spurs (picking at #37). He must have thought, "To hell with it, I'm going to take a chance. It's only a #37 pick and an unguaranteed contract, so what's to lose? And if the knees etc. pan out, Blair will be an absolute steal."
I wish KP had thought that way. But he's such a preparation guy--that would have gone totally against his grain. I suspect that KP--like his counterparts picking in the late first and early second rounds--just couldn't break with his strict protocol of drafting guys he knows inside out. Bluntly, I suspect that KP was caught with his pants down and let an impact player slip thru his fingers.
Thinking about it, this would explain some other cases of obviously talented players dropping like stones in the draft. Once a guy drops four or five slots, a different dynamic develops that causes him to KEEP falling. Now he's being made available to teams that never had him on their radar. Those team have already got other guys targeted who they've thoroughly researched. How can they pull the trigger on this guy who appears out of the blue? It's much easier to pass and figure the guy probably fell that far for good reason.
I hope I'm wrong about all this. I hope that KP had very good reasons for passing on Blair--even at #33. I hope that our genius GM--unlike those finicky trout passing on tasty morsels--didn't have a blind spot when it came to a certain deliciously beastly power forward.