Draft after draft, the Trailblazers have failed to draft a great rebounder to come off the bench--a Paul Milsap-type. Most recently, they passed on DeJuan Blair not once but three times and let Kenneth Faried slip away. Sure, after the fiasco of the Houston Rockets playoff series--in which the stringbean Blazer forwards got manhandled by the Rocket wide-bodies--the Blazers drafted Jeff Pendegraph. But there's a world of difference between a Blair or Faried and a Pendegraph. The problem: the Blazers' talent evaluators DON'T REALIZE THIS! Why is the question.
Why am I so certain of this? Mainly because I had "the gift" myself. Don't laugh at this part: I was a 5'9" guard who never played beyond the high school level. I could barely touch the rim. But when the ball went in the air, I knew where it was going to come off the basket. More accurately, my BODY knew, because I didn't think about it: I just instinctively started heading to that spot the moment the ball left the shooter's hand. Because I generally knew where the ball was going before anyone else on the court, I had a big advantage in blocking out or subtly "nudging" opponents off balance. And I was nearly always able to time my jump perfectly. (Exceptional timing--in a number of respects--is part of "the gift.") The result was that I was able to get rebounds away from taller players more times than not.
Because I had the rebounding knack, I relished it. That's where the "hard work" part comes in. Because I knew I had a great chance of success, I didn't mind the exertion and the contact. Forget scoring (I was an inconsistent shooter)--I loved frustrating bigger opponents by coming up with rebound after rebound. When I heard them yelling at each other, "Will someone block out that midget?" it was music to my ears.
This isn't to say that rebounding is ALL about "the gift." You don't see a lot of 5' 9" rebounders in the NBA--or even in high school. When games started getting played above the rim, I had to get out of the paint and get back on defense like a guard is supposed to! Elite rebounders need some combination of height, reach, quickness, a wide lower body, and leaping ability. Preferably all of the above. My point is that all that is useless if they don't have "the gift" as well.
Paul Silas had it. Moses Malone had it. Dennis Rodman had it. Paul Milsap has it. Kevin Love has it. DeJuan Blair has it. So do a lot of other NBA players past & present. But it's not actually that long a list--certainly no longer than the list of great shooters. From all that I've heard, Kenneth Faried has "the gift," yet the Blazers passed on him at #21. The reason, I believe, is that they don't even know that "the gift" exists.