The Blazers most likely will not have a chance to draft at number 10 (or better) again for several years. As such I consider it crucial for the Blazer franchise to keep the #10 pick and use it to pick the best player available. The Blazers need to consider both short term and long term. Most teams build success through the draft. These days most players do not stay in college long enough to really learn the basics of basketball. Most rookies need years to learn the NBA game. Fans also need to be patient. Very few teams have instant success with new additions to the team. The process of developing an NBA player takes time, hard work and patience. There are very few magical players who instantly make a team a title contender.
Obviously free agent signings can add valuable pieces to a team. But Portland is not a choice city that promises media exposure and off the court activities. So significant summer signings of stars would be very unexpected and unlikely. Thus it is probably best for Portland to look to the draft to get quality players.
Portland at the beginning of last year had a very inexperienced bench. As we all remember, the starting five did an excellent job. But they wore out from playing 40 minutes per game. Then injuries crippled the last months of the season. So having a capable bench is essential to a winning team if they are to be fit and ready for the playoffs. I was encouraged by the progress some of the Blazer rookies showed toward the end of the season. Victor Claver
(dob 8/30/88) showed promise to be a steady force off the bench either as a stretch 4 or SF. Meyers Leonard (2/27/92) began to show he will be a solid NBA player. He is only 21 years old! Joel Freeland
had a more difficult rookie year but he is only 26 after he started playing basketball about age 16 (http://nbadraft.net/players/joel-freeland). Will Barton
(1/06/91) really was coming on at the end of the year. His early injury slowed his development but he made the most of his opportunities when he finally got playing time. Elliot Williams
(6/20/89) is a big unknown as injuries have severely hampered his playing time and career. Williams is really just a rookie set to start his first full year in the NBA this fall.
The players likely to be replaced with free agent signings and draft picks: Pavlovic (11/15/83), Nolan Smith
(7/25/88), Jeffries (7/25/81) and Luke Babbitt
(6/20/89). And what happens with JJ Hickson? Is Eric Maynor
really the answer at back up point guard? Portland probably will have at least 4 new faces on their roster next season.
The draft keeps talent growing. It brings young players who will develop under the very good coaching and teaching of Terry Stotts
and his staff. Portland needs help at backup big man positions – power forward and center. But immediate perceived needs should be secondary to drafting the best player left on the draft board. And hopefully Neil Olshey and the Blazers will not worry if their pick is rated #24 by Chad Ford of ESPN or Draft Express. I like what Toronto did last year in drafting Terrence Ross
at number 8 when he was projected at 14 or later. We will have to wait to see if this works out for them but they had the courage to pick out of the confines of the mock drafts.
Portland fans have been patient and I fully expect them to wait while this team develops. Signing free agents to fill out a solid bench is the basic need for this summer. Just two solid rotation players will make a huge difference. Starters will be able to rest and be fresh for the end of a game and more importantly, ready for the last games of the season and the playoffs.
Portland also has 3 second round picks: 38, 39 and 45. There are several interesting prospects who could make an NBA team and become rotation players. Remember Jeff Pendergraph
and Dante Cunningham
were picked in the second round of the 2009 draft and both became rotation players. Cunningham is now with the Timberwolves
and Pendergraph plays for Indiana. Will Barton was a second round pick last year! Taking the BPA in the second round can add depth to the Blazer bench for years to come.
ESPN’s Amin Elhassan says "Don't mess with it: The Lillard-Nicolas Batum-Aldridge triumvirate is the type of core that can form the foundation of a contender, if they are surrounded with appropriate talent." http://insider.espn.go.com/nba/draft2013/story/_/id/9300935/2013-nba-draft-portland-trail-blazers-lottery-draft-guide
I agree completely will Elhassan that the Blazers now have a 3 player core to build around. The draft will be a great way to add quality players to that core and the draft will ensure ongoing improvement of the franchise in the coming years. To maintain the long term quality of the Blazer team we need excellent young players. The rush to quickly build a playoff team should not sacrifice the long term needs of our franchise.