With the Blazers playing out the string and seemingly destined for the lottery this year, I felt the itch to explore who are our draft possibilities for this year. Many of these guys are also playing in the NCAA tourney, so that might also add some viewing interest. I proceed under the assumption that the Blazers, barring an epic collapse, or another ping pong ball miracle, will draft in the 10-18 pick range. Also, that the Blazers are set at SF and PF with Aldridge and Batum, and won’t look at picking a SF/PF type player (which is a real shame, because many of the best players in the draft are SF/PF types). So let’s break down the positions :
Center – probably the position of greatest need for the Blazers. With Oden seemingly done, and Camby and Przybilla not long for retirement, now is the time to go out and get the Center of the future (and no, CJ is not ready for prime time).
--Anthony Davis – yeah, I put him on this list, even though he is probably more a PF than C, and the Blazers have almost no chance of getting the #1 pick, but what the hell, no one thought that we would get Oden either. Davis is an awesome force on the defensive end. He blocks everything with his huge arm span, and sucks up rebounds like a Hoover. He is like Mark Eaton with the mobility of Dwight Howard. His outside game was raw at the beginning of the year, but he has recently developed some mid-range shooting touch and can hit some hooks. Pairing him with LMA would just about kill every other team’s front court.
--Andre Drummond – also most likely out of the Blazers reach unless they can get a top 4 pick. Drummond is a real physical specimen at 6’ 11” and filled out solidly. He is a bit of a risk as a high draft pick though because his offensive game is so elemental. I wouldn’t trust him to score on much beyond lobs, dunks and 4 feet jump hooks at this point. There is no denying his physical gifts though, and someone will pick him high. I liken him to a larger version of Derrick Favors.
--Tyler Zeller – a probable lottery pick. The Blazers will take a long look at him as he possibly may be available when they pick. Listed at 7’0”, he is mobile for his size and has a good touch around the basket. He can also hit the mid-range jumper with some consistency. I would like to see him rebound and defend better though. I think that he is going to need more bulk to play effectively in the NBA, but he has potential.
--Meyers Leonard – this is a name that you will hear a lot in connection with the Blazers come draft time. He is most likely going to be available at 15, and he is a legitimate center at 7’0” and 240 lbs or so. I liken him to Tyler Zeller lite. He would fill probably the biggest need for the team and I think at this point is the most logical selection for the Blazers based on where they are likely going to pick. Leonard has good size, good mobility for a guy that big, and has a pretty good offensive game. He seems an above average athlete, and I don’t think that he is that much of a step down from Zeller, really. If he is available, I gotta think that the Blazers will take him.
--Patric Young – a smaller sized version of Andre Drummond, likely late 1st round pick. A bit short for a Center, but has good bulk and great athleticism. Needs a lot of work to harness his athleticism and turn it into something productive. I think he will probably be a PF in the NBA.
--Festus Ezeli – another likely late 1st round pick. Not overly impressed with him. Just seems soft and sort of passive. He might develop into a poor man’s Olden Polynice, but I don’t know.
PG – a position of great need for the team. Nolan Smith may or may not pan out, but an upgrade here is definitely needed.
--Kendall Marshall – projected to be a middle of the first round pick, I would have to say that the Blazers have to give him serious consideration. He is a large PG (6’ 4”) who knows how to run and team and make his teammates better, seems very heady and coachable. From an NBA player standpoint, he reminds me most of Andre Miller. Not particularly athletic and with a suspect jumper. Not going to score a ton, but I think he will mesh well with LMA and Batum. The most NBA ready of the PGs in the draft.
--Damian Lillard – another probable middle of the first round pick. Plays out of Weber state. A crazy scorer, can create his own shot and hit from downtown. The concern would be if he can be a PG at the NBA level, or if he is going to be a scoring combo guard. If the Blazers are looking for scoring and outside shooting from their PG, this is the pick. I see him as a slightly taller version of Damon Stoudamire.
--Scott Machado – leading the nation in assists playing for Iona, but projected to be only a late 1st round to early 2nd round pick. I think he would be a real bargain if he does last that long. He is listed at only 6’ 1”, but when I saw him play, he seems bigger than that. There is no doubt that he can distribute the ball. He doesn’t strike me as being overly athletic, and I wonder if he can be a good on the ball defender in the NBA. If the Blazers can get Meyers Leonard in the 1st round and Machado in the 2nd round, I would be pretty happy with that draft.
--Tyshawn Taylor – a great athlete. Can score from anywhere and gets to the hoop easily. Watching him play, he is so smooth and elusive, but I wonder if he is really a PG. Has had some rumors about his attitude as well. Late 1st round to early 2nd round as well. I would be surprised if the Blazers targeted him.
Shooting Guard – not the most pressing need for the team with Wes Matthews and Elliott Williams already manning the position, but I think the team would still pull the trigger if the right player came along, but this is also probably the weakest position in the draft IMO.
--Bradley Beal – I like this guy. He has ok size, but he plays bigger than he is. He handles the ball well, and can score going to the hoop and from outside. He is still very young, but I think he will continue to get better.
--Jeremy Lamb –tall for a shooting guard. Has great athleticism, but probably is too thin. He is one of the better players at creating his own shot and can score in a variety of ways. The problem with him is that he seems to disappear for long stretches of the game, and seldom seems motivated to take over a game as he is capable of doing. Not a great defender either. Will probably take a top 15 pick to get him, and the Blazers are unlikely to use it on Lamb given their more pressing needs at C and PG.
--Austin Rivers – looks a little undersized for a SG, but doesn’t seem like a Point either. Can score like crazy, outside and inside, but I wonder how he will do against the larger, more athletic defenders he is going to encounter in the NBA. I think he has pretty high bust potential. I wouldn’t take him before 20 in the draft.
--John Jenkins – I could see the Blazers targeting Jenkins with their 2nd round pick. He is exactly the kind of outside shooter the team could use in terms of replacing Jamal Crawford’s role.
PF/SF – as I said before, the Blazers are unlikely to target these positions given that they are manned by Batum and LMA already. The usual suspects like Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd Gilchrist, Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, John Henson, Terrence Jones, Quincy Jones, Arnett Moultrie, Jeff Taylor and Terrence Ross are all great players, but not likely to be high on the Blazers radar given their situation. I do think that if somehow the Blazers hit another lottery miracle, they would still take Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, or MKG in a heartbeat with a top 3 pick, LMA and Batum be damned.
In summary, I would say that the Blazer’s most likely scenario now would be Meyers Leonard in round 1 and Scott Machado in round 2, but who knows how things will play out, they could end up going Kendall Marshall in the 1st round and Festus Ezeli in the 2nd. I will be an interested spectator in any event.