Things are slow on Blazer's Edge. Heck, things are slow in the basketball world, period, unless you care one bit about Euroball or how much Kobe Cryant is asking for per month ($2 freakin' million) to bring his weak play over to Turkey.
Sure, we're currently dealing with a lockout, but I'm a glass half-full kind of guy, so I'm looking forward to who we could possibly grab in the next NBA Draft. There are plenty of great players coming out for 2012, some great freshmen and some excellent older classmen too. Though the Blazers have some holes in their rotation that need to be worked out, it seems clear that we've addressed the Point Guard situation, and now may need to find a Center and/or backup Power Forward, and maybe even a shooting guard in Brandon Roy's injury-plagued wake.
Via Draft Express' 2012 Mock Draft, I'm going to look at some prospective players and you can determine if they're worthy of putting on a Blazer uniform:
-Austin Rivers: has average size for a shooting guard at around 6-4, and will need to continue to work on his frame down the road. He's an exceptionally fluid athlete, though. He has a great first step, terrific shiftiness off the dribble and amazing scoring instincts for a player his age. Rivers is a multi-faceted offensive threat who is capable of creating his own shot in the half-court and being a deadly shooter from beyond the arc. He's equally adept at making shots with his feet set or off the dribble, showing interesting mechanics that are extremely consistent but also slow down the speed of his release somewhat. He's capable of absolutely exploding at any given moment.
-Anthony Davis: The #1 prospect on Scout and ESPN, at 6'10" there's little doubt that Davis is the best long-term prospect in high school basketball. His 7-4 wingspan (measured in Portland) and terrific athleticism allow him to make a huge impact on the defensive end in particular, the place where his presence will be felt the most at Kentucky. He plays extremely hard and is incredibly mobile on top of that. He has the ability to step out on the perimeter and contest shots effectively while also being able to rotate and establish himself as a shot-blocker thanks to his excellent timing. Davis has good fundamentals in the post and on the perimeter as well as a strong feel for the game. It's only a matter of time until everything comes together for him. Even with his distinct lack of polish, he made a huge impact in every game we saw, mainly thanks to his desire to get out in transition, crash the offensive glass and finish emphatically around the rim.
-Jared Sullinger: PF at 6'8", the most productive freshman in the NCAA last year and Ohio State's go-to-guy, he has incredibly soft hands to catch pretty much anything thrown his way and an unbelievable awareness for where he is on the court relative to his teammates and opponents. Patient and confident, he has extremely polished footwork and excellent body control, showing a wide array of spins and counter-moves that help him create even higher percentage shots. With his feathery touch and ability to shoot with either hand, he doesn't miss very often despite the fact that he's rarely getting his shot off over the top of the defense. When the double-team inevitably comes, he's extremely quick to recognize rotations and does a very good job of finding open teammates spotting up on the wing.
-Patric Young: From a physical standpoint, there may not have been a more impressive player than center Young. He has good size at around 6-9, sports an incredibly chiseled frame and is a very good athlete on top of that, looking mobile and explosive, making him a fairly rare commodity. He's a force on the interior thanks to his terrific physical attributes, showing great toughness and a high intensity level, and having no problem throwing his weight around in the paint to get the job done. Young doesn't seem to have any misconceptions about the type of player he is. He rarely strays out onto the perimeter and doesn't seem too eager to show off his skill-level, showing a solid feel for the game and being very team oriented.
-Andre Drummond: A physical specimen type of athlete with a huge wingspan, long legs and strength and agility at a young age. PF/Center at 6'10" and compares to Amar'e Stoudemire. Born in August of 1993, and with size 18 shoes, Drummond could have another growth spurt in him and could end up well over 7-feet. He's already a beast inside the paint with his rebounding and shot blocking ability and shows the toughness and tenacity to be a dominant inside player. Shows a natural feel for the game with good timing on shot blocks and explosive leaping ability ... Has a huge wingspan (7-feet-plus). His range on his shot and consistency are something he will need to develop.
-Perry Jones: Deemed by many scouts as the prospect with the highest upside of any player in college basketball, he's one of the most efficient players in college basketball, shooting nearly 60% inside the arc. Standing 6-11, with long arms, an excellent frame and incredible fluidity for a player his size, Jones is a rare physical specimen by any standard. When motivated, he runs the floor about as well as any big man in this draft and is capable of beating his man off the dribble with a terrific first step. He has great hands and an exceptionally soft touch, which makes him an incredible finisher around the basket. His length and highlight reel-caliber explosiveness help in this regard as well. Offensively, he has great potential as a pick-and-roll finisher thanks to his hands, touch and leaping ability. He is also a solid presence on the offensive glass for the same reason. He has excellent shooting mechanics and solid range out to about 18 feet, even showing flashes of being able to convert shots off the dribble at times. The weakest part of Jones' game clearly lies on the defensive end, averaging an alarmingly low number of blocks and steals every game, and very few rebounds.
-Tyler Zeller: Following two injury-plagued seasons, Zeller has emerged as the leading scorer on a talented North Carolina team as a junior. Although he may not possess the upside of teammates John Henson and Harrison Barnes, his solid play has caught the attention of the many NBA scouts watching the Tar Heels this season. Starting at the center position, Zeller is extremely mobile for a player his size, which fits perfectly into North Carolina's up tempo system. And while his team has had some struggles this season, Zeller has probably been their most consistent performer. Zeller has the physical tools to stand out at the college level, as there aren't many players with his combination of size, mobility, and skill level. While not a top-shelf athlete, he runs the floor well and is able to elevate to finish and compete on the glass. His lack of physical strength is still his biggest weakness, but if he's able to add some strength he could be a center in the NBA.
-Lucas Nogueira: Given his terrific size (7'0") and athleticism for a center, Lucas was at his best when making his presence felt defensively and on the glass. He ranked as the U-19 World Tournament's No. 1 per-minute shot-blocker and its fourth best rebounder. With that said, his lack of strength and poor fundamentals clearly hampered him at times. Offensively, Lucas is still a limited player. He doesn't possess much of a post game and does not have an extraordinarily high skill level outside of the paint. Still, his sheer length and athleticism allow him to make his presence felt when he's really dialed in and playing to his strengths, especially given his ability to crash the offensive glass and finish above the rim. The upside Lucas possesses is undeniable. His strengths put him in a rare caliber of big men prospects that are highly coveted by NBA teams.
-Arnett Moultrie: Standing 6’11, Moultrie has excellent height for a post player at any level. He has a good, albeit undeveloped frame, and with added strength, could develop into a force around the basket. He is a very good athlete as well, quick and mobile in both the post and in the open floor. As a face-up power forward/center, Moultrie has an interesting skill set, but is not consistent enough yet to be a premier post player at this level. He is a player with surprising range on his jumper and quick feet in the post, capable of playing down low and on the perimeter. The problem is consistency. Moultrie is still a very raw prospect. He is a capable shooter at this point, but he must work on his form, particularly making sure that his motion is the same every time he shoots the ball.
-James McAdoo: measured 6-8 ½ in shoes with a 7-1 wingspan. McAdoo is not a player who jumps out athletically on first glance. He appears to be in no rush to show how explosive he is. He's a smooth and highly fluid player with great coordination and mobility, though, and he will occasionally explode at the rim for a monster finish. McAdoo's biggest virtues lie in his skill-level and his basketball IQ, which is extraordinarily high for a player his age. He can step out on the perimeter and create his own shot driving either left or right, and he has the ability to make shots with range out to the 3-point line, although he can't hit outside shots consistently quite yet. In the post, McAdoo shows nimble footwork and an array of hook shots, step-throughs and turnaround jumpers, but he still needs to work on becoming a better finisher through contact.
-Festus Ezeli: Ezeli's NBA potential revolves around his tremendous physical profile. He unquestionably looks the part of a NBA center, and has for some time. Though he'll need to continue working to maximize his frame, his athleticism is not going to be a limiting factor on his career long-term. Ezeli has always been a tremendous catch-and-finish option thanks to his excellent length and athleticism, but his biggest weakness in the past was his lack of polish in post-up situations. While he's still a work in progress, his 70% shooting in post-up situations is good. Ezeli's biggest weakness at this point is his inability to stay out of foul trouble.
-John Henson: Henson's intrigue as a prospect centers around his phenomenal physical tools and his freakish length and mobility for a player at 6'10”. He runs the floor extremely well and has huge strides and a tremendous wingspan, which allow him to cover a ton ground with each step he takes. His body is obviously in need of quite a bit of extra strength. Offensively, Henson relied on his length and energy to make plays and get buckets around the rim last season, whether he was crashing the offensive boards, cutting to open spaces in the basket area, or running the floor in transition. Henson handles the ball very well for a player his size and has the potential to be a matchup nightmare for opposing power forwards on the perimeter, where he can utilize his quick first step and long strides to beat his man to the basket. He showed flashed of this last season, but he was too easily bumped off his path because he was so thin and weak.
-Jeremy Lamb: The first thing that jumps out about Lamb is his incredible length. Standing at 6'5” with a reported 7'1” wingspan – which, if true, would be one of the longest wingspans of any shooting guard. He combines that with very good athleticism, creating an extremely intriguing prospect from a physical standpoint. Lamb's length makes him a potential play maker on the defensive side of the ball. With an ability to play the passing lanes, his length also allows him to play further off his man on isolation situations than normal defenders would, as he has good ability to recover, close out and contest an otherwise open jump shot. Offensively, Lamb's game currently revolves primarily around the jump shot. Lamb's a good catch and shoot option, who should be able to extend his range out to NBA three point line.
-Mason Plumlee: One of the most talented freshmen in the country last season. Relegated mostly to finishing on cuts and offensive rebounds on the offensive end, Plumlee played his role well while also showing occasional flashes of why he's so highly regarded as a prospect. Standing 6'11 with a decent frame, good length, and superb overall athleticism, Plumlee has the prototypical physical profile for an NBA power forward. Extremely explosive and agile with great coordination and a very high motor, Plumlee has the potential to excel anywhere on the court on the offensive end should he develop the requisite skills. While Plumlee did most of his damage on simple finishes around the rim for the Blue Devils, he shows the groundwork of skills in a variety of areas when he gets the occasional chance to create his own offense, being at least adequately capable of dribble drives, perimeter jumpers, and back-to-the-basket moves.
-Tarik Black: Defensively is where Black is probably at his best at the moment. His length and athleticism allows him to emerge as a very effective shot-blocking threat rotating from the weak-side, and he’s agile enough to step out and hedge screens out on the perimeter defending the pick and roll. Every college team needs at least one Tarik Black in their frontcourt rotation, and thus it’s no surprise to see the type of offers he’s getting at the moment. After all, long-armed athletic big men with a heartbeat don’t exactly grow on trees. If he continues to develop his all-around polish as he fills out and gains more experience over the next few years, we might be able to talk about his pro potential as well.
-Augusto Lima Caesar: At 6-10, with a solid 7-1 wingspan and very nice leaping ability, Lima looks the part of a NBA big man, especially looking at his frame. Lima showed quick hands and a knack for finishing on the put-back. His feel for the game does not appear to be the best, his skill-level is still in need of work, and his motor tends to run hot and cold at times, but Lima has the physical tools and upside NBA teams love, and should be a player that's followed closely next year in anticipation of the 2012 NBA draft.
-Mouphtaou Yarou: Standing 6-10, with a terrific wingspan and an outstanding frame, Yarou looks the part of an NBA center, and moves like one too. He has good hands, is very fluid relative to his size. Defensively, Yarou is a massive presence inside the paint with his chiseled frame and outstanding wingspan, and already was able to establish himself as a solid shot-blocking presence in his limited playing time, averaging 2.5 blocks per-40 minutes pace adjusted. Yarou has good instincts and moves his feet well, being able to contest shots impressively at times with his length and effort-level. Playing just 315 minutes after being forced to sit out much of the early part of the season once diagnosed with Hepatitis B, Yarou's freshman campaign was not very conclusive, but did feature some extremely intriguing moments.
-Joshua Smith: At 6'9", he’s undersized and an extremely overweight center. Offensively, he’s capable of establishing position inside the paint at will, and has terrific hands, agile feet and outstanding touch to go along with that. Smith appears to play below the rim, but he actually gets off the ground fairly quickly, looking very natural operating on the block. The fact that he can move so well despite the fact that he’s carrying an extra 30-40 pounds tells you quite a bit about the natural talent he possesses. Outside of his ability to score inside, though, Smith doesn’t seem to have progressed on some other key areas, mainly his face-up game, his free throw shooting, his left hand, and his fundamentals on defense. For now, Smith remains a big-time talent with some major question marks surrounding him.
Well, who else do you think would benefit the Blazers, whether in a glaring hole such as center, or just in a redundant position (PG, SG, SF) who could be a willing scorer off the bench or just a minor role player? I look forward to your thoughts and comments below.