Let me get the bold statements out of the way. Austin Rivers will be Brandon Roy with an attitude. Andre Drummond will be the second coming of Patrick Ewing. Ok, now that I've got you all riled up and ready to argue, let me explain where I'm coming from.
No franchise should ever have to go through what we've been through in the last few years, and no franchise should ever have to endure the bad luck with big men and the draft that we have. Luckily this year, the basketball gods have decided to finally end our misery, and replace the two missing pieces to the "Big Three" that have been taken away from us, by allowing Drummond and Rivers to fall to us in the draft. It won't be overnight, but by the 2014-15 season, we will be ready to reclaim our place among the best in the Western Conference, and Rivers, Aldridge, and Drummond will lead the way.
Andre Drummond is clearly not ready to be a starting center in the NBA right now. In a perfect world he would have stayed at UConn for the next couple years, and refined his game, but it wasn't to be. So those two years will have to be spent as the backup center on Portland's roster, learning the game, and maturing physically. For those two years you put him in for 20 minutes a game, and tell him to do nothing but play as hard as he can, and be coachable. All mistakes will be viewed as nothing more than a learning opportunity. Luckily the Blazers have the cap space to get a serviceable starter during that learning period. They also have the perfect mentor to teach him how to be a pro. How to show up to work everyday and earn his big paycheck...Joel Przybilla. Then in two years time he will be doing this to the league (make sure you watch the one where he takes one step and dunks with two feet from mid-key!).
What the Blazers have lacked more than anything since BRoy's demise is someone who they can give the ball to, and say "go make a play." In my humble opinion, there is no one in the draft better at this than Austin Rivers. There are good players, but no one as elite at getting into the paint as Rivers (go watch this if you don't believe me). People hate on him because he was a bit selfish. Well, you could make an argument that Ryan Kelly was the second best player on Duke last year. If that's the case, can you blame Rivers for feeling more confident in his ability to get things done than his teammates. They also hate on him for being too cocky. Guess what...all the great players are cocky. It is why you either love or hate Jordan, Kobe, James, etc. I'm not putting him in their class yet, but the point is that being cocky isn't necessarily a bad thing. Besides, whoever our next coach is will have a speed dial to Doc (my favorite coach in the NBA), whenever he needs some help on how to best communicate with his son.
So what does our roster look like once we draft these two? Well, after a draft day trade, and a few choice free agent signings, my guess is it would look a little something like this:
Goran Dragic/Andre Miller/Nolan Smith
Austin Rivers/Elliot Williams/Will Barton
Nicolas Batum/Luke Babbitt/Jae Crowder
LaMarcus Aldridge/Antawn Jamison/Kurt Thomas
Spencer Hawes/Andre Drummond/Joel Przybilla
You trade Wesley Matthews, the #40 and #41 picks to Cleveland for the #24 and #34 picks. This saves you a bunch of cap room, and is actually a good trade for Cleveland's roster as well. You take Barton with the #24 pick and Crowder with the #34, and they provide a bit of insurance in case Williams and Babbitt end up not being serviceable backups. With all of your cap room, you sign Dragic as your long term answer at PG, and Miller on a one year deal to be backup (imagine him throwing lobs to E.Will and Drummond!). This also allows us to make amends of sorts for shipping Miller off for the terror that was Felton. You sign Jamison to a Crawford like deal, which allows you to let Hickson and his cap hold walk, and provides some scoring off the bench (remember he is a former 6th man of the year award winner). The last free agent signing is Hawes, who has shown in these playoffs that he can hold down the fort until Drummond is ready. Przy you sign for the vets minimum, on more of a player/coach basis, and allow him to retire as a Blazer.
I think that team is a great blend of veteran leadership, and young talent. Shooting, low-block scoring, and pick and roll play. And, I think it would be a legitimate playoff team, with the potential to develop into a championship contender.
Ok, feel free to tell me why I'm nuts...