It's officially mock draft season in the NBA. I say officially because ESPN's Chad Ford released his first mock draft of the year today, and since ESPN is the "Worldwide Leader" other sites like SI.com, Yahoo!, CBS, et. al. will soon follow suit (probably hard on the heels of the Final Four). Just for fun, here are four mock drafts already out there, plus my thoughts on the Blazers' needs and who they should take.
Here's cursory look at a few mock drafts from around the internet:
Chad Ford, ESPN.com: Ford has the Blazers picking 4th** and 11th, and taking Bradley Beal (SG, Florida) and Tyler Zeller (C, UNC).
**The highest the Blazers could pick without winning the lottery is 4th. It happens if the Nets have one of the three worst records in the league and don't win the lottery, or if they have the fourth worst record and the three worst records win the lottery.
NBADraft.net has the Blazers taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrest (SF, Kentucky) and Austin Rivers (SG, Duke).
The fine people over at Draft Express have the Blazers taking Harrison Barnes (SF, UNC) and Terrance Jones (PF, Kentucky).
And finally, NBA-Draft.com has the blazers taking Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger (PF, Ohio St.).
Trail Blazers' biggest needs: PG, C, SF.
This seems like a broken record. Ever since the Blazers drafted Brandon Roy, the Blazers have been looking for the mythical "point guard of the future" and "center of the future". We had a center in Oden, but turns out his knees are made of porcelain. Pryzbilla (who we all love), is not the long-term answer, nor is Raymond Felton at point. With two lottery picks, the Blazers should be able to address both point guard and center.
I want to talk about why I included SF as one of the Blazers' needs. If the Blazers resign Batum, SF is not a need. Unfortunately, they may not be able to resign him, and if they do they are going to have to pay through the nose. Batum will get a HUGE offer from someone this year, and it could be upwards of $40-$50 million. The Blazers completely lowballed Batum with the 3-year, $15 million offer, and if they get it in the 4-5 year, $30-35 million range they have a better shot of resigning him. Though don't be surprised to see a Houston or San Antonio throw $45 mil at Batum and force the Blazers to pony up or let him go.
(Just as an aside, this is the sort of thing that wouldn't have happened if the Blazers had a real GM who could operate free of a meddling owner. Paying Batum $7-8 million a year is a much better price than a team signing him to a 4-year, $45 million offer sheet and forcing the Blazers to give him $11 mil/year. I loved that PA & Co. finally decided to press the 'reset' button, but without an actual GM who won't get fired after 10 months, it's a very dangerous move.)
I also want to talk about why SG is not a position of need. A lot of BlazersEdge members want Batum to be the permanent SG, which I strongly disagree with. First, Batum's natural position is the 3. He's going to cause mismatch problems for years there, and will add strength as he matures. Ultimately, while he could be a nightmare matchup on defense as a 2, I see him being an offensively limited 2-gaurd, whereas he could be an elite 3 both offensively and defensively in a few years.
Second, Wesley Matthews is a good shooting guard. Yes, he has had a bad season, but the every Balzer except for LMA and Batum have this year. It's what happens when a team falls apart. Also, he is better starting than coming off the bench which he did for a while and hurt his game. And here's the big question, who would you rather have? How many good 2-guards are out there? Not many, actually. Here's the landscape for them:
The rest of the 2-guards are either up-and-comers, upside guys, or role players. (Guys like DeMar DeRozen, Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Korver, JJ Redick, Klay Thompson, Rip Hamilton, Stephen Jackson, etc.).] So really Matthews is a top-8 shooting guard, because I'd rather have him than a player like Monte Ellis or Kevin Martin, who can't guard my grandma. While a Ray Allen might be having a better season, you'd rather have Matthews for the next 4 years. He spaces the floor with his three-point shooting, and is an above average, if not spectacular, defender who constantly gives good effort. Having Matthews makes PG and C much bigger needs than SG.
Who the Blazers should take: In Ford's mock Andre Drummond is still on the board when the Blazers pick at 4, and I honestly don't see how they could not take him. Drummond has an NBA body (6'11", 275 lbs, 9'1" reach, 7'5" wingspan), great length and athleticism, is an excellent shot blocker and rebounder, and a great passer for his size. He's not a great scorer, but the Blazers don't need him to be next to LMA. He'll get points off of put backs and offensive rebounds. He is the perfect player to put next to LMA.
If they do pass on Drummond (or he is off the board when the Blazers pick), I do like the Tyler Zeller selection. He's a legit 7-footer, runs the floor well, has range on his jumper out to 18-feet (so he and LMA can space the floor for each other), can finish around the basket, and is a good rebounder. He could stand to add some strength, but there is always time for that. He's a polished, mature senior, and seniors usually have an extremely smooth transition into the pros, whereas freshmen and sophomores that jump to the NBA can struggle.
And there is only one correct selection for the Blazers' own pick (this is assuming the Blazers' pick is somewhere in the 10-13 range): Kendal Marshall. He is the best pure PG in the draft, and is an incredible creator and facilitator for other players. He would be able to take full advantage of LMA and Batum's skill sets, and would be able to get a ton of open looks for Matthews. He's also huge for a PG, and is good defensively. For those worried about his broken wrist, don't worry, it was in right (non-shooting) wrist. You can talk all you want about value and need, but the Blazers need Marshall at PG.
If the Blazers aren't able to resign Batum, Harison Barnes (UNC) and Quincy Miller (Baylor) become options. If Drummond is off the board, the Blazers could take Barnes with the Nets' pick, and then Zeller or Marshall with our own. As for the second round, a player like Marquette's Jae Crowder, Iowa St.'s Royce White or Vandy's Jeff Taylor would be great choices to provide some depth behind Batum, or replace him if he isn't resigned.
The bottom line is this draft is crazy deep, and while the Blazers should be focused on a select group of prospects, they should be able to get a quality center and a playmaker to rebuild with.