Besides the one-and-a-half good players we snagged in 2006, how many good draft days have we had? How many opportunities have we missed to be a great team? Despite his popularity, Kevin Pritchard had more questionable draft moves than he did good ones. With their apparent disdain for picking players out of college, Nash and Patterson before him were just awful.
Here is a look at all our drafts, starting with our first modern-day lottery pick in 2004:
This year is when it really started getting bad for the Blazers. With the 13th pick, they shocked everyone by taking HS point guard Sebastian Telfair. As you all know, Telfair never amounted to a whole lot and is now a minimum-scale player at best. Six of the next seven picks were Al Jefferson, Josh and J.R. Smith, Dorell Wright, Kris Humphries, and Jameer Nelson. Nelson, Jefferson, and Josh Smith have been semi-stars, while J.R. and Wright have had some success.
Next we got a little Sabonis nostalgia and picked the (not!!) dynamic duo of Viktor Khryapa and Sergei Monia from eastern Europe. They were the 22nd and 23rd picks. The rest of the first round was full of players who have gone on to be notable role-players or better. Kevin Martin, Tony Allen, Beno Udrih, "The Machine" Vujacic, and Delonte West rounded out the first round, while Anderson Varejao, Chris Duhon, and Trevor Ariza fell to the second. Khryapa and Monia barely played in the NBA, though Khryapa did play a key role a couple years later...
This one may take the cake for catastrophic drafts. First, we traded away the third pick and a chance for a couple of point guards named Chris Paul and Deron Williams, plus Raymond Felton. Next, we picked up a high-schooler (fourth year in a row) Martell Webster, passing on the likes of Andrew Bynum and Danny Granger.
Then, we traded up to get Jarret Jack. Not a terrible pick, but we could have had David Lee or Brandon Bass AND Ronny Turiaf, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Andray Blatche, Amir Johnson, or Marcin Gortat.
A strong draft and a franchise point guard here could have set the stage for a contending team for years. Apparently with Telfair on the roster , we didn't need Paul or Williams. With the raging success of Qyntel Woods, Travis Outlaw, and Telfair, why not take ANOTHER high-schooler?
KP came into his first draft with guns a blazin'. Acquiring Aldridge and Roy without giving up much. Khryapa and Telfair fulfilled their Blazer destinies in these trades. The rest of the draft wasn't great but it wasn't terrible. Sergio and Joel Freeland were picked up, while missing, like many other teams, Paul Millsap.
Despite Roy's downward trend, it has been the one unquestionably good draft in years.
I am tired of this one. When you have a potential franchise center, a rarity, you take him over a high-scoring wing. We know how that has unfortunately turned out. It is too bad the ping-pong balls didn't spit us out at #2 or #3. Besides Durant, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and Mike Conley were drafted soon after. I don't judge this one harshly because I still have hope for Oden and I think every other team would have made the same decision. But results speak for themselves.
The Blazers were like a kid in a candy shop right after allowance, making a record number of trades. Rudy Fernandez was not a bad pickup, but Aaron Brooks, Arron Afllalo, or Tiago Splitter would have been better. Petteri Koponen WAS a bad pick at 30, Carl Landry was picked next and Glen Davis followed at 35. Josh McRoberts was good at 37, though Marc Gasol, picked 48th, would have been better. Our last two picks didn't amount to anything, unsurprisingly.
The Blazers continued their trading ways, giving up Jack, McRoberts, and 13th pick Brandon Rush for 11th pick Jerryd Bayless (who was supposed to be up there with Russell Westbrook.). It is too bad we couldn't move a pick or two higher, to get Brook Lopez. This wasn't a terrible trade and pick, but McRoberts and Jack would have been nice to have around. Jason Thompson, Roy Hibbert, JJ Hickson, Javale McGee, and Serge Ibaka were among those picked soon after in a big-man rich first round. Hibbert, McGee, and Ibaka at least should have been top ten picks.
With the future resting on Oden's broad shoulders, we didn't seem to need another promising big man.
This draft was frustrating as much for the moves we did not make as much as for the picks we did make. First we were rumored to trade up for Stephen Curry (probably costing us Bayless and/or Fernandez). Then we were rumored to grab a pick in the teens and pick up one of five good points guards that went right in a row (Jrue Holliday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Eric Maynor, and Darren Collison). Instead, we allowed rival Denver to get Lawson for little, and moved up from 24 to 22 to get someone we could have gotten anyway. When Victor Claver was picked, most people's reaction was "Victor who?"
While Claver still has potential, Omri Casspi, Roddy Beaubois, and Taj Gibson were among those picked up shortly afterwords. Next we picked Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham in the early second round. Solid picks yes. But an unusually productive second round also yielded Dajaun Blair, Sam Young, Jonas Jerebko, Chase Budinger, Jodie Meeks, and Marcus Thornton later.
Just as Oden may have kept us from our center of the future in 2008, a laser-like focus on free agency may have cost us our PGOTF in 2009.
This one doesn't look good so far, but it is still early to judge. Webster was traded for Luke Babbit, who has not adjusted well to the NBA yet. Kevin Seraphin or Erik Bledsoe might have been nice here. Elliot Williams at 22 is still a big question after missing his rookie season. Jordan Crawford looks to be the biggest missed opportunity here. Armon Johnson at 34 was ok, though we missed out like other teams on Landry Fields.
It is amazing to see how many opportunities we missed. Between a fixation on high-school and foreign players, the Oden distraction, and other factors, we have missed out on great opportunities.
The Blazers have fallen in to their own traps here. Whether it was drafting high-schoolers (Telfair, Webster), which never turned out well, foreign players (Khryapa, Monia, Freeland, Koponen, Fernandez, Rodriguez, Batum, Claver), which rarely worked out, or drafting primarily for need (Oden, Bayless, Babbit). I can't imagine that any other franchise has had more missed draft opportunities than Portland in recent years.