With the 2012 NBA Draft fast approaching it's time to take a deeper look at the Portland Trail Blazers' options. This is going to be a multi-week, multi-post prospect. We'll begin today by looking at the possibilities for the Blazers trading up to a pinnacle-level pick.
We're going to assume that the #1 selection is untouchable, since that's 99.9% sure. If the Blazers could get their hands on the first pick they'd go for Anthony Davis...the only possible option when trading up that high. End of story. But what would happen if they parlayed their lottery picks and assets into the #2 or #3 selections? The most mentioned names are a pair of forwards, at whom we'll look today: Thomas Robinson of Kansas and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky.
Robinson is a 6'9", 240 lb Junior power forward boasting a 7'3" wingspan and a blue blood college pedigree. The cliché phrase when describing draft prospects is "He's got an NBA body". You can forget that. The NBA don't have that many bodies like this. He's a dynamo too. The ball is never safe when he's around. If it's flying in the air he either did it or can get it. He won't quit on plays. He's a great rebounder. He's a true pick-and-roll guy on offense, able to set screens and score off of screen sets both. He prefers the face-up game when he's isolated. Even though he's able to clear post space, scoring with his back to the basket is not his strong suit. When he's comfortable in the post he can be devastating but he's not usually comfortable when facing bigger or longer defenders. His defense follows a similar pattern. He can be brilliant playing in open space, following motion or the ball. When isolated against big men, particularly defending the post, he's more average.
Robinson's jump shot is sketchy, a drawback for a face-up player. He's not a catch-and-shoot threat at all and even off the dribble you're holding your breath when he rises. Separation is his friend. When he gets it, he'll dazzle. Putting up shots over arms makes him look like...well...a muscular power forward shooting jumpers. Combine a rudimentary post game and a high-risk perimeter game when and he's not exactly looking like the kind of automatic #1 option you'd want on offense with this high of a pick. Neither is he a passing threat, though. He'll have an end-of-possession offensive mentality without reliable end-of-possession skills.
If this guy were 7'0" and a center instead of 6'9" and a power forward, he'd be right up the Blazers' alley. But wingspan or no, he's not. He seems like a great guy to develop alongside LaMarcus Aldridge. If he could play the middle the Blazers could ride his athleticism and raw ability for a year or two while they coaxed a power post game and post defense out of him. But as a power forward, now you're making a choice between him and Aldridge. Aldridge has the offense over Robinson, hands down. Robinson has better drive and will likely win in the aggression department. But now you're trading one set of strengths for another. You don't trade up to the #2 or #3 pick to do that. You want a blooming star, an immediate contributor, and a clear field in front of him to show his stuff.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a 6'7", 228 lb Freshman small forward from Kentucky. Like Robinson he boasts amazing athleticism, a huge wingspan, and comes from a high-profile college program. But it's not just the height and weight and 7'0" reach...this guy moves it. He's a thunderous terror in transition. His defensive potential is formidable. The recurring nightmare for opponents is MKG stopping a player straight up, running he court, then finishing with a monster jam on the other end. He has that mentality too. He's not a softy. He doesn't ponder or regret. You are going to get chucked, slapped, robbed, and finished on. His inside offense reflects his mentality. He's ready to bang low. He'll post you if you're smaller. You'll not have an easy night--probably ending up sore--when he's on the floor.
Kidd-Gilchrist's problem is offensive skill set. Here it is: go right with the dribble and get past or go right hand from the post. That's it. He has no three-point shot. He's not a creator on offense. Forget first option, he's probably not a reliable third option in a halfcourt offense at this point. Defenders are going to back off and wait on that right hand all night. As long as he's not running free in transition, they're not scared. Like Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist could well dominate when he's in his comfort zone, but he'll have to expand that zone significantly before he can become a star. In MKG you're looking at a player you won't regret having on your team, not a player you can build your team around.
Again the issue for the Blazers is, "Don't we already have a guy like this on the roster?" Nicolas Batum's style and that of Kidd-Gilchrist are miles apart. Batum's not as aggressive, not as imposing, not as strong. But he's also known for defense, for being a complementary player, for being that guy you love but can't build the team around. He also has an outside game and is farther ahead in his development than MKG. The Blazers would love Kidd-Gilchrist, but how much have they improved their roster spending an ultra-high pick on him with Batum already in the stable?
What say you? Would you move up to get either of these guys? If so, what about them attracts you most? Also where do you see the roster going afterwards? Could Portland's current forwards and their new prize draft pick co-exist or do you see more moves following? Are these players worth that kind of cost? Weigh in below.