Portland Trail Blazers Get #6 and #11 Picks in 2012 Draft: The Expectations

As you now know the Portland Trail Blazers received the #6 and #11 selections in the 2012 NBA Draft Wednesday evening, courtesy of their own record, the Gerald Wallace trade to the Brooklyn Nets, and some random ping pong ball bouncing voodoo. We now have a more solid ideas of their possibilities in June.

What Kind of Players Can the Blazers Expect if they Retain Their Picks?

Here's a chart of the last 10 players selected at the 6th and 11th positions respectively.

6th Pick

11th Pick

2011

Jan Vesely

Klay Thompson

2010

Ekpe Udoh

Cole Aldrich

2009

Jonny Flynn

Terrence Williams

2008

Danilo Gallinari

Jerryd Bayless

2007

Yi Jianlian

Acie Law

2006

Brandon Roy

J.J. Redick

2005

Martell Webster

Fran Vasquez

2004

Josh Childress

Andris Biedrins

2003

Chris Kaman

Mikael Pietrus

2002

DaJuan Wagner

Jared Jeffries

2001

Shane Battier

Kedrick Brown

Click through for a discussion of these players and Portland's other possibilities!

Two things quickly become evident from this chart:

  1. The fall-off from the truly elite players to the 6th-position players is drastic. You don't see many memorable names in that left column.
  2. The gap between 6th and 11th, though not quite as pronounced, is still measurable. Take every player in that right-hand column at the peak of their production and you'd have a hard time fielding a credible NBA lineup. That group would be right back in the lottery again, likely hoping for a pick higher than 11!

Both the 6th and 11th picks are in a weird no-man's land. They look really nice on paper. But they're not quite high enough to guarantee the stars and starters that teams crave, not quite low enough to be dispensable. You're in the lottery...twice over. You expect these selections to pay dividends. But you're not secure. In the last decade teams have found more disappointments than stars with these picks.

At #6 you definitely want a future starter. You hope, crossing fingers and doing the right kind of research, that you might unearth a star. Brandon Roy and Danilo Gallinari aren't bad, eh? But you're not going to be able to choose position or particular skills if you're gunning for a star-level player. You have to grab as much talent as you can and hope it works out. The alternative is drafting for position or skill and hoping the guy manages to crack your starting lineup at some point. Several former #6 selections have spent careers on the bench and some didn't get off it. You're taking a risk trying to draft your star here but you're taking just as big of a risk going for anything but.

At #11 you're hoping the player can stick with your team in any capacity. This isn't the second round. Your draftee is going to make your roster and play out his rookie contract unless you totally blow it. But no matter what Hubie Brown and Dick Vitale say about him on draft day, a space in the upper half of the rotation is no guarantee. This is a great place to take a gamble on a project player at point guard or center or your high-volume scorer with deficiencies or attitude issues. You're near the top of the gamble list here so you might as well bet big.

All of that said, starters and stars come from positions below 6th--sometimes below 11th--in nearly every draft. The players are there to be had. The trick is identifying the right ones and making them match your future plans.

What are the Other Options?

The easiest alternative to using both these picks would be packaging them to move up. Remember that picks have no intrinsic value. They're only worth what other General Managers perceive the draftees to be worth. The Blazers have a couple things going for them in that vein:

  1. While light on superstars, this draft is considered deep into the teens at least. Most pundits don't see a ton of difference between players from 6-15, give or take a few slots. That "give or take" provides an opening to the Blazers. If Portland perceives the "star line" to lie between picks 4 and 5 they have extra ammo and a strong argument to be able to move up a couple picks. That 11th pick may be perceived as stronger than usual.
  2. Even in a normal year, that 11th pick is high when thrown in as bait. The same "no-man's land" that makes picking tricky makes trading tantalizing. If you call someone and say, "We want to move up a couple spaces" and they say, "For what?" you can answer: you only have to move down slightly and you get a whole 'nother pick crowded against that one. 6th and 23rd doesn't carry the same weight.

If you're Cleveland or Washington, you have to think hard about adding a couple pieces to a depleted roster. Portland, on the other hand, would prefer a single star. Obviously the Cavaliers and Wizards would too, but if they're not convinced that star is there--or they're convinced that their star will still be available at #6--they'll be ready to make a 2-for-1 deal.

Let's not get crazy, though. 6 and 11 aren't going to get you up to #1, just in case you were wondering.

The other option, naturally, is trading a pick or picks for an established player...the Blazers' stated preference. If you're considering this, look again at the chart above. Clearly Portland's willingness to part with the 6th pick is going to be the key to getting a significant deal done. Pretend you're a GM and you're considering trading your nifty point guard. Would you move him for anybody in that right-hand, 11th pick column? You need the 6th pick to get the conversation started. You may need both, depending on the player you're looking at.

A combination is also possible...perhaps desirable in fact. The Blazers might need to get super-tricky and package their picks to move up then trade their shiny, new high pick to get an established guy.

As Storyteller has pointed out, few if any of these deals can be consummated before the fiscal year turns in July. We likely won't know the final disposition of Portland's selections until the draft is a few weeks old.

Until then, speculate away on the possibilities!

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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