Warning: This post is a monster. If you need to get up to speed with the guys that have come through Portland over the past month, this is your one-stop shop. Everything you need to know about the names you need to know, a few things you need to know about the names you should probably know, and nothing about the guys you don't need to know. (At least that's the goal.)
Last year, I came up with the Draft Prospect Board as a way to organize the team's interest in all the players that came through for pre-draft workouts. Although it seems like forever ago, you might remember that the Blazers had five picks last year and had a bunch of talent come through for workouts: Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Omri Casspi and Tyler Hansbrough, among others. Now that the Blazers have completed their pre-draft schedule, it's time to do the same thing for this year's group. Here's the goal...
This board is not an attempt to predict who the Blazers will select, who will be the best professional or who is the best player today. Instead, this board aims to answer the question "Who would I be least surprised to see drafted by the Blazers this year, regardless of pick?"
Remember, this board doesn't necessarily aim to predict who the Blazers will select because it only covers those players that worked out in Portland. For some perspective, realize not one player in Draft Express's Top 20 worked out in Portland this year. So if the Blazers are planning to trade up, as is rumored, it's almost certainly to draft a player who didn't work out here. We'll look at potential targets later this week. For now, we're ranking the guys who came through Portland based on the likelihood that they wind up Blazers this year.
Here's last year's Final Board. It's pretty interesting. Jeff Pendergraph is right near the top. It was pretty much impossible to miss his ties to Nate McMillan, his enthusiasm for the team and situation, the skillset that he brought to the table and the team's interest in his steadily improving body of college work.
Dante Cunningham, though, was on previous versions of the Top 10 before finding himself bounced off at the end. This was primarily due to my misreading of Kevin Pritchard's comparison of Cunningham to Travis Outlaw. At first read I concluded that Pritchard might be hinting that there was too much overlap between Cunningham's skills and Outlaw's. As we came to find out, what he really meant was, "Cunningham is 80% of the player that Outlaw is at 20% of the price." Really, the Cunningham/Outlaw situation is the best representation to date of the "Value Over Replacement Player" strategy that Pritchard has more completely explained over the past year.
This year, the Draft Prospect Board is arguably less meaningful than it was last year. Why? First, less talent has come through Portland. Second, more observation has takent place outside of Portland. Third, the Blazers have just two picks instead of five. Fourth, because it's a lot less clear than last year who is calling the shots when it comes to the draft. None of those reasons stopped me from cranking out 4,000 words here.
What were the guiding principles behind this year's rankings?
First, draft positioning was weighted heavily. If a prospect can be reasonably drafted at both #22 and #34 that gets a bump. Two cracks at drafting a player are better than one. If a player is likely off the board at #22 or a reach at #34, that's a minus.
Second, positional needs were weighted considerably. While the team retains its "Best Player Available" mantra, you can see a heavy slant towards forwards and upperclassmen in this year's workout group (see the "By The Numbers" breakdown near the very bottom of this post). From everything I've seen and heard over the last six months, that's no accident. Also, fitting a specific position is better than lacking a position. Purer fours get a bump over combo 3/4s. Purer points get a bump over combo guards. Versatility is valued, as long as the player has a specific position to start from.
Third, players with a defined skillset get a bump over players that represent "potential." With so few roster spots, let alone minutes, up for grabs, the Blazers scouts have repeatedly made it clear they are looking for guys who are ready to go from day one and are known commodities. System fit was also taken into consideration. If a player is used to running, comes from a free-flowing offense, has a quick trigger or needs a lot of touches to get going, those are all warning signs for their potential fit here in Nate McMillan's Portland.
Psychological or background red flags were also considered. This year, they didn't play a huge factor, although Willie Warren self-selected his way off of this list by cancelling his workout entirely. Thanks, Willie! On the other hand, if a player was specifically praised for having high character, that might have served as a tiebreaker.
Without further ado, click through for this year's Draft Prospect Board.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter
Here is this year's Draft Prospect Board. Click on each player's name for their Draft Express profile. Continue reading below for quotes and observations from this year's workouts.
Draft Prospect Board
- Craig Brackins, Forward (Iowa State)
- Gani Lawal, Forward, (Georgia Tech)
- Armon Johnson, Guard (Nevada)
- Larry Sanders, Forward (Virginia Commonwealth)
- Sherron Collins, Guard (Kansas)
- Deon Thompson, Forward (North Carolina)
- Brian Zoubek, Center (Duke)
- Jon Scheyer, Guard (Duke)
- Luke Harangody, Forward (Notre Dame)
Jerome Randle, Guard (California)
Top 10: Player By Player Breakdown
#1 Craig Brackins, Forward (Iowa State)
Craig Brackins worked out on Saturday and, as I wrote over the weekend, drew some pretty rave reviews
. "He's got size, he shoots it, he faces the basket and handles the ball," Blazers Head of College Scouting Chad Buchanan said. "High, high character guy who I think has a bright future in our league. I'd be shocked if he's not a first round pick." Given that Brackins can be found on various mock drafts between 20 and 45, it's clear from that statement the Blazers think more highly of him than the consensus opinion.
While it seems like every power forward in the draft is listed at 6'10" 230 pounds that doesn't always match what shows up in the gym. Brackins stood out as having an NBA body that will be versatile on both ends of the floor. Maybe even a little "wow" factor physically compared to some of the others. Quick, some power, long, athletic, big.
Brackins has been flying under the radar a little bit this year and it's likely due to the fact that he took a statistical step back compared to last year. In a weaker 2009 draft, he was seen as a lottery type talent. That, in and of itself, represents value, which the Blazers are always looking to target.
Brackins actually compares himself to LaMarcus Aldridge in this NBA.com video
, which is pretty interesting. Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan have both discussed the importance of shooting recently, highlighting Aldridge's ability to open the floor with his jumper. Brackins ability to do the same seems to be seen as a good thing rather than a redundancy, especially because he brings a lot of other skills to the table. "He can handle, he can face up and shoot it, good passer, he rebounds his position well," Buchanan told me. "I think you can plug him into just about any type of a system and he can find a way to contribute."
Brackins sits in the top spot on this board mainly because he won the "Most NBA Ready" title when I asked Buchanan to compare Brackins to Gani Lawal and Larry Sanders, the other two highly-touted power forwards that worked out in Portland. "They all have a specific skill," Buchanan said. "Gani can rebound the ball at an NBA level. I think Craig can shoot at any NBA level. And Larry can defend at an NBA level. I think Craig is probably the most polished overall of those three players. That's why I feel he's probably the most NBA ready, especially of the group we had in today. He's athletic enough and he's got size for his position, which is important for us."
If there is a knock on Brackins, it's the same one that dogs Aldridge: he should spend more time around the basket on both ends. Perhaps the Blazers don't perceive that as a huge problem. During portions of his workout that were closed to the media, the team let Brackins roam and fire out to the NBA three. He was reportedly hitting from that distance too.
While there aren't a ton of frontcourt minutes available if everyone comes back healthy, he would be another talented, multi-faceted piece who could play alongside Oden and hopefully find success regardless of his playing time. He also might represent a frontcourt player with a true position whereas there are some questions about both Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph on that front. Brackins is the kind of player that the Blazers might like at #22 and love at #34.
#2 Gani Lawal, Forward, (Georgia Tech)
Gani Lawal worked out last Tuesday and didn't get the attention he deserved because we were all distracted by Kevin Pritchard's semi-impromptu statements about his future and Dean Demopolous's workout room flight to freedom.
As mentioned above, the Blazers see Lawal primarily as a rebounder and seemed to imply his overall offensive game was lacking in polish and finish. His college scoring resume is impressive and he's been highly-ranked for a long time, owing to his reputation for going all-out and being able to dominate the competition on that level. Given his projected position on the Blazers depth chart, that type of no-nonsense energy and physicality off the bench could certainly be useful.
If there's a question with Lawal to Portland it's this: Do the Blazers value his rebounding strengths as much as another team might? Last year, Portland was 7th in overall rebound rate
, despite losing two centers to season-ending knee injuries. With Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, Joel Przybilla and Jeff Pendergraph set to return, you can see why the Blazers might prefer a slightly more versatile look if they draft a power forward.
I would have had him a bit lower on this draft board prior to Monday's trade up from #44 to #34 because he's the type of player I think the Blazers might consider and pass on at #22 and find out that he was gone by #44. At #34, he would give you a known quantity, the toughness that Pritchard said he was looking for during exit interviews, and a reasonable replacement for Juwan Howard. He could also potentially start a two-man wild-out crew with Jeff Pendergraph called the Shop Wreckers and really scare some people at Summer League. I'd be down for that.
#3 Armon Johnson, Guard (Nevada)
Armon Johnson is another player who has flown under the radar a little bit as one-and-done point guards Eric Bledsoe and Avery Bradley have gotten more hype and interest league-wide. He played alongside the more heralded Luke Babbitt at Nevada and put up 15.7 points and 5.6 assists in his junior season before declaring.
Portland's interest here comes from the fact that he has excellent size and strength for a point guard (6'3", 195); Buchanan also feels he is a "very, very good on-ball defender" thanks to his quick feet and physical abilities. Johnson, a lefty, is more of an explosive to-the-basket scorer rather than a spot-up shooter but Buchanan believes he can make the transition to a more traditional point guard role. "Combo guard that has to become a pure point. I think he can do it," Buchanan said today. Buchanan avoided saying the same thing about a few other combo guards this month (I'll mention a few examples below).
The big question about Johnson is his jumper. His outside shooting numbers border on atrocious: he shot 28.9% from the college 3 for his career and just 23.9% last year. After watching him brick a few threes this morning, I asked him pretty directly about his shooting struggles. To his credit, he didn't duck the issue. "It's just a confidence thing," Johnson told me. "I feel like I've made tremendous improvements on that [during the draft process]."
Johnson also admitted that the scouts have asked him regularly about those shooting woes. "They ask me why I have such low percentages and then they see how I shoot and they see I'm a good shooter. I just let them know I had a lot of things on my mind when I was running the point guard position [at Nevada]. Trying to think about other people before myself. It's hard to shoot when you've got to think about other people."
Buchanan agreed that Johnson has improved his shooting during the process and said he views Johnson as a bubble first round pick. As the workout broke up this morning, Johnson stayed late to talk to both Buchanan and Born and then put up some extra jumpers with shooting coach John Townsend. Less than 90 minutes later, it was announced that the Blazers had traded up from #44 to #34. Coincidence? Probably. Nevertheless, Johnson will almost certainly be the best point guard available at #34.
Johnson has one final trait that has marked some Blazers draft picks in the past: a chip on the shoulder because he has been overlooked. I asked him where he saw himself in two or three years as a player. "I definitely want to be an all star caliber point guard down the road," Johnson said, without hesitation. "If that's not what you strive for, then this shouldn't be what you do." Not many projected late-first/early-second round players play the all star card that readily.
I can't see the Blazers reaching for Johnson at #22 -- or any point guard for that matter -- but he seems like a strong candidate at #34. In case you're curious, Buchanan said last week that the management team is "still evaluating" Patty Mills. After I finish writing this post I will be doing some research to see if Mills has recently put his Lake Oswego dream house on the market.
#4 Larry Sanders, Forward (Virginia Commonwealth)
Coming into June, I would have had Sanders at #1 on this list because the Blazers have been scouting him with interest for months. What changed?
First and foremost, he conducted his media workouts in Portland like a player who was looking to get out as quickly as possible rather than a player looking to make a good impression in his potential future home. After talking with a few writers that interviewed him in cities that have picks higher up the board, they couldn't have painted a more different picture. There, he was engaging, quick, thoughtful and patient. Given that he visited Portland relatively late in the process, I think he probably feels he will be gone before the Blazers pick at #22. And he's probably right.
So the question becomes: Is Sanders the type of player the Blazers trade up for? Possibly but not definitely.
He's considered an athlete, and he pointed to his ability to get up and down the court as one of his best attributes. I was not bowled over by his size, strength or shooting form. Given that he's seen as good defensively, but doesn't possess true low-post strength, and he's seen as a player with upside on offense, but not a refined game, I'm not sure he's a match here. He's another case where someone else around the league will likely value him more highly than Portland does. If he's on the board at #22 the Blazers think about it and if he somehow lasts until #34, he would almost certainly be the "Best Player Available."
#5 Sherron Collins, Guard (Kansas)
Sherron Collins fits a number of qualities the Blazers value: experienced, from a winning program, good leadership abilities, high character, hard worker, toughness, defined position. The obvious recent comparison is Ty Lawson, given those qualities and his short, strong build. Colllins also shot 37.7% from distance which is a big plus.
What separates the two players is Collins's extra weight and the impact it has on his quickness. While end-to-end speed isn't crucial for the Blazers given their slow pace, the ability to defend the point guard position in the half court requires a certain baseline of lateral quickness, especially given his height. 5'11" point guards become a defensive liability very quickly if they can't keep small, quick guards in front of them because they are already going to struggle with more physical guards.
Collins is a guy that might have made sense at #44 if the Blazers succeeded in addressing their frontcourt needs in the first round. By trading up to #34, they're shopping a little bit above Collins's price range.
After that top five there's a pretty substantial fall off to the next tier of players in terms of the likelihood that they wind up as Blazers.
#6 Brian Zoubek, Center (Duke)
You probably remember Brian Zoubek from Duke's championship run. He was the big guy setting picks, being physical and trying not to screw up. That's basically his game. Of the 5s and combo 4/5s that we saw in June, Zoubek had the smoothest face-up shot. Watching him shoot, I could kind of picture him as a weakside release guy in the Blazers system. His range isn't going to be very large but it doesn't need to be. On the downside, it's clear that he will need to add some muscle mass to compete underneath the basket for rebounds on the NBA level.
Buchanan described him as a third-string center. At first glance, that doesn't seem like a great fit with so many 5s on the Blazers roster right now. That said, i'It's difficult to see Przybilla in Portland after the trade deadline at the latest. So perhaps you take a chance on a 5 to fill that spot and hedge against future injuries and the eventual retirement of Marcus Camby. In the end, Zoubek is another guy that made more sense at #44 than #34.
#7 Deon Thompson, Forward (North Carolina)
Deon Thompson is another prospect the Blazers have been following for awhile but they seemed to have cooled on him recently. His reputation was originally made as an on-the-block power forward but Buchanan noted after his workout on Saturday that they expected him to be more physical and active in the low post than he was this past season. The more he floated on offense, it seems, the less they liked him.
With UNC on a down year this year and younger guys like Ed Davis and John Henson emerging, Thompson got lost a bit in the shuffle. The question becomes: Will his level of physicality translate to the pro level against superior athletes and length? Given his ability to shoot the ball out to the mid-range and convert at a high percentage, there's probably still some interest. But not at #22 or #34.
#8 Jon Scheyer, Guard (Duke)
Of everyone that came through this month, Jon Scheyer was the most surprising from a physical perspective. He was rail thin, as expected, but much taller than I assumed. He has legit 2 guard height, an exceptional work ethic, a Duke pedigree, the intelligence that go with that pedigree, and the questions about his athleticism and quickness that go with that pedigree.
Who can he guard? Kobe Bryant could drop 100 on him. Scheyer wouldn't be giving him any free buckets but he wouldn't be getting many stops either. I think his height actually works against him, too, as combo guards and tall points will blow by him.
Buchanan didn't seem overly enthusiastic about Scheyer's ability to translate his game to the NBA level but if the team is looking for shooters, his name is going to be near the top of the list for the guys they worked out here in Portland. Impossible to see him picked at #22 or #34, but if the Blazers happened to scoop up a very late second round pick maybe they would consider him. For some reason I have this premonition that Scheyer is going to have a randomly awesome Summer League for somebody.
#9 Luke Harangody, Forward (Notre Dame)
Luke Harangody is on this list solely because he has a major advocate in Chad Buchanan. I'm almost positive Buchanan is about to register DraftLukeHarangody.blogspot.com. This kinda sorta feels like a situation where a scout wants a player to succeed rather than someone who knows a player will succeed. Harangody sports a full offensive repertoire and loads of experience and honors from Notre Dame. He won't be able to guard anyone in the NBA and there's no way he goes at #22 or #34. If the Blazers buy the #60 pick and draft Harangody, you'll know a Pritchard to Buchanan GM transfer of power is complete.
#10 Jerome Randle, Guard (California)
Last year, I poo-pood the idea of the Blazers drafting an instant offense, small, quick point guard from the state of California in Patty Mills and I wound up dead wrong. Randle is cut from a similar cloth and had comparable statistics in college, although he's bigger. There are some question marks in his background but they don't necessarily seem serious. Buchanan did use the phrases "take a risk" and "take a chance" when describing drafting Randle in the second round and handing him the ball on offense. Given what we know about Nate McMillan, those seem like pretty obvious tells. Can't see him picked at #22 or #34 but he's got bounce-around potential.
Others Worth Noting
I pulled the Draft Express ranking for each player that worked out for the Blazers in Portland this June. Here are the Top 10 talents that worked out in Portland in order, according to Draft Express.
- Larry Sanders, Forward (Virginia Commonwealth) #23
- Jerome Randle, Guard (California) #31
- Gani Lawal, Forward, (Georgia Tech) #33
- Brian Zoubek, Center (Duke) #35
- Art Parakhouski, Center (Radford) #37
- Sherron Collins, Guard (Kansas) #40
- Armon Johnson, Guard (Nevada) #45
- Craig Brackins, Forward (Iowa State) #47
- Aubrey Coleman, Guard (Houston) #51
- Ben Uzoh, Guard (Tulsa) #55
As you can see, 7 of the 10 names on this list find their way onto the Draft Prospect Board above. Let's take a quick look at the three guys that didn't make the cut.
Art Parakhouski worked out this morning and, while humongous, doesn't fit the mold of a Blazers center that we've become familiar with. His short-range jumpshot form was really bizarre, as he pointed his toes during his release like a ballerina. His entire shooting form was a mess although that's not usually the first thing you look at when evaluating centers. While it's not inconceivable that the Blazers draft a center, this bruiser will need some minutes to develop. If the Blazers drafted a project center, I'd expect it to be someone with greater athleticism or at least someone who is able to come out to the perimeter to set screens and be something of a face-the-basket threat on occasion.
Aubrey Coleman is a short (6'4") scoring guard who isn't an excellent outside shooter. It's difficult to see the Blazers going that direction. A point guard who isn't an outside shooter? Possibly. A two guard (even a short two guard) who can shoot it? Possibly. A combo guard who scores, is used to a fast-pace offense but can't space the floor reliably after four years of college? Don't think so.
Ben Uzoh is in a similar mold to Coleman: a talented off-the-dribble combo-guard with some questions about his shot and bigger questions about his ability to be a full time point guard. I'm reading a little between the lines on some of the comments Buchanan made after his workout. Buchanan just didn't seem confident that Uzoh could be plugged into their backcourt rotation and do what a 4th or 5th guard would be asked to do on this team. Same goes for Coleman.
Being left off the Draft Prospect Board isn't a knock on the NBA potential for these players, it's just a judgment on their fit in Portland. Here are a few other guys that were on the outside looking in.
Tiny Gallon: Fattest person ever to be nicknamed Tiny. Came out from college to early, weight concerns, short for his position, hard to see him fitting here.
Samardo Samuels: Could become a very good NBA player, eventually. Came out early, doesn't seem to have the immediate NBA readiness the Blazers are seeking, and admitted that he hasn't received much, if any, advice from his college coach regarding the draft process. Very soft-spoken, nice guy but it's not totally clear what the specific attraction for the Blazers would be.
Workout Attendees By The Numbers
In case you're interested, here's a breakdown of the full list of June workout attendees by Draft Express ranking, experience and position. This list includes only players with workouts that were open to the media.
Full List of Workout Attendees
And here's the full list of June workout attendees in alphabetical order. Their Draft Express rank is included when available.
Marqus Blakely, Forward (Vermont) #73
Matt Bouldin, Guard (Gonzaga) #61
Craig Brackins, Forward (Iowa State) #47
Derrick Caracter, Forward (UTEP) #57
Aubrey Coleman, Guard (Houston) #51
Sherron Collins, Guard (Kansas) #40
Osiris Eldridge, Guard (Illinois State) NA
Landry Fields, Forward (Stanford) #81
Jeff Foote, Center (Cornell) NA
Keith Gallon, Forward (Oklahoma) #56
Luke Harangody, Forward (Notre Dame) #60
Marquez Haynes, Guard (Texas-Arlington) NA
Tory Jackson, Guard (Notre Dame) NA
Armon Johnson, Guard (Nevada) #45
Tyren Johnson, Forward (LA-Lafayette) #78
Mac Koshwal, Forward (DePaul) #62
Chris Kramer, Guard (Purdue) NA
Gani Lawal, Forward, (Georgia Tech) #33
Tommy Mason-Griffin, Guard (Oklahoma) #96
Elijah Millsap, Forward (Alabama-Birmingham) #89
Art Parakhouski, Center (Radford) #37
Nik Raivio, Guard (Portland) NA
Jerome Randle, Guard (California) #31
Andy Rautins, Guard (Syracuse) #85
Scottie Reynolds, Guard (Villanova) #87
Samardo Samuels, Forward (Louisville) #64
Larry Sanders, Forward (Virginia Commonwealth) #23
Jon Scheyer, Guard (Duke) #71
A.J. Slaughter, Guard (Western Kentucky) #76
Donald Sloan, Guard (Texas A&M) NA
Patrick Sullivan, Forward (SE Louisiana) NA
Deon Thompson, Forward (North Carolina) #79
Ryan Thompson, Guard (Rider) #93
Ben Uzoh, Guard (Tulsa) #55
Ludovic Vaty, Forward (France) #72
Dominic Waters, Guard (Portland State) NA
Brian Zoubek, Center (Duke) #35
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter