The 2013 Draft is in the history books for the Portland Trail Blazers. Let's take a look at how they did.
Round 1, Pick 10: C.J. McCollum--6'3" 197lb Combo Guard from Lehigh, 21 y.o. Senior
Round 2, Pick 31: Allen Crabbe--6'6", 197lb SG from California, 21 y.o. Junior
Round 2, Pick 39: Jeff Withey--7'0", 222lb C from Kansas, 23 y.o. Senior
Round 2, Pick 40: Grant Jerrett--6'10", 232lb PF from Arizona, 19 y.o. Freshman
Round 2, Pick 45: Marko Todorovic--6'11", 240lb C from Montenegro, playing in Spain, 21 y.o.
Portland's strategy in this draft seemed fairly simple: get in, get the best player available with each pick, then get out. The Blazers left the wheeling and dealing to other teams. This approach was effective in a draft with so many question marks. With the future unclear the Blazers didn't want to opt out of their picks but they also wanted to limit their cost and exposure to risk. They got the best talent they could with the picks they had, regardless of position, and called it a day.
The lone exception was the value move of trading two future second-round picks to obtain the first pick of the second round from Cleveland. This was a good bet. The Blazers took on no guaranteed contract but got their pick of players who had dropped to the second round level where value was high measured against the first round. This no-fault strategy netted them California's Allen Crabbe...their splurge of the evening.
Several people were clamoring for the Blazers to get into the bottom of the first round. It's unlikely they would have found a player clearly superior to Crabbe. They certainly would have incurred a cap penalty in July for such a move, plus a 3-4 year contract obligation. In this kind of draft, with a cap-intensive summer ahead, that kind of move wasn't worth it.
For the second straight year the Blazers showed themselves unafraid to draft experienced candidates. All four of the players they retained are 21 or older. All three NCAA players are upperclassmen.
Portland selected two projected shooting guards and two centers. Talent trumped need, especially considering the bigs were the last two players selected.
This by-the-numbers, BPA, minimal fuss approach was exactly correct for the situation, if not for the team's then for this draft's. Nobody was hitting home runs tonight, at least not in the short term. Everybody who tried--whether breaking the mock draft pattern like Cleveland or whipping around trades like Dallas--either looked silly or presented much ado about nothing. Eschewing this, the Blazers took as big of a swing as they could during 4 of 5 at-bats, ran a base or two, and now they head back to the dugout to prepare for the impending, and critical, free agency period.
Recapping from our pre-draft analysis, C.J. McCollum is one of the many jump-shooting wings to emerge from this draft class. He's not a pure shooter but he's a quick-release, small-opening-needed guy...an attribute which will serve him well given his 6'3" height, short for the shooting guard position he'll need to play for the Blazers. Though the best part of his offense comes from outside he can also drive, draw fouls, pass the ball, and rebound. He averaged a healthy 24 ppg at Lehigh this year, which stretches out to 31 points per 40 minutes. He's a scorer but he'll also serve as a reserve point guard.
His challenges at the next level will be maintaining that scoring against bigger, more athletic defenders and playing defense against same. He's more crafty than explosive. That profile adapts on offense but defense is another matter. He and Damian Lillard may have a hard time playing together unless one or both pick up the "D".
Money quotes from our preview of McCollum:
This draft has been knocked for lack of stars. Whether McCollum has the talent to ascend to star level remains to be seen, but among the mid-to-high prospective picks he's the only one with star bearing. He walks, moves, and shoots with confidence. He makes his mistakes trying to do things, not shying away. He looks and acts like a really good player. You can't miss him on the court. That can't be taught. Under the right circumstances this guy could be a huge boost.
As long as he's in that 6th man role, there's not a lot of downside to taking C.J. if he's available at #10. Even though he's not the hyper-athletic, drive-heavy finisher that most envision, McCollum might be an adequate enough reserve wing scorer to make the Blazers forget about going after another in free agency. Filling that need with a rookie contract makes more sense than trying to fill the starting center need that way. Freeing up the remainder of Portland's cap space to chase starting centers and assorted spot guys would be a fine use of the 10th pick.
By selecting McCollum the Blazers passed up centers Steven Adams and Kelly Olynyk, potential combo-guard Michael Carter-Williams, and scorer Shabazz Muhammad. Adams was the most attractive of the alternate targets because of his position and potential. But the Blazers had a chance to take any number of project centers in this draft and chose to avoid them. Either they assessed the available players as inadequate, they didn't feel the risk was worth the time they'd need to invest, or they simply have other plans at that position.
It's likely that McCollum hit the sweet spot between many of those attractive players the Blazers passed over for him: playmaking ability like Carter-Williams, scoring like Muhammad, star potential like Adams with the ability to play at a decent level now. If Lillard and McCollum gel they'll certainly be a charismatic backcourt. They also have the potential to be a power-scoring duo. Opponents won't be able to sleep on either because they'll not know where the attack is coming from. It remains to be seen whether that offensive potential can make up for the potential lack of defense.
Like McCollum, Allen Crabbe is a scorer reliant on a jumper he can get off quickly. He's not afraid to fire from range. His scoring at California wasn't as prolific as McCollum's at Lehigh but he was efficient and still produced 20 points per 40 minutes. He's not much of a ball-handler. He's semi-athletic but has a hard time applying it at the defensive end. But he stands 6'6", high in the curve for a true shooting guard.
Crabbe got embroiled in a famous incident wherein his college coach pushed him during a timeout and Crabbe had to be restrained, cooling off behind the bleachers mid-game.
Money quote from the prospect previews:
A slightly taller version of Wesley Matthews without the motor or the defense? Pass. There are better shooters and better overall prospects at this position in this range.
Obviously the Blazers assessed differently than I did. Or they just figured Crabbe was the best option at that level. Other candidates included shooting guard Jamaal Franklin--a better athlete lacking a jump shot--small forward Glen Rice Jr., and mercurial but talented power forward Tony Mitchell. All of those players do some things better than Crabbe but, like McCollum, Crabbe hybridized several of their qualities.
If Crabbe pans out, which is not guaranteed, it's hard to envision him playing in the same rotation with Lillard, Matthews, and McCollum for long. Likely the Blazers would move one of those players, extracting further value from this selection.
All of this combined will make Crabbe the most interesting Blazer player to watch in the upcoming Summer League.
Jeff Withey is a 7-footer with good defensive instincts. He blocks shots like a champ. He grabs defensive rebounds. He patrols the rim area well enough that DraftExpress labeled him "arguably the best overall defender in the NCAA".
Withey is also thin, limited on offense, and is going to be at the mercy of any player in the opposing uniform when called to defend away from the bucket.
He'll have to patch up the perimeter defense if he hopes to get any run in the NBA. Other than that, I don't expect him to improve much. He's a player you'll put in the game for 10-15 minutes a night to do four things well while your starters rest. Depend on him for anything outside of his sphere of strength and you're in trouble.
Preview money quote:
Withey has skills the Blazers would value but...he'd be a low risk, low yield pick for Portland, more of a patch than a solution.
Folks projected Withey to go higher in the draft, making him another value pick for the Blazers. This is what you'd expect in the second round. But the results will be what you'd expect in the second round as well.
Grant Jerrett is a strech four with plenty of "stretch" and not much "four" to him outside of his 6'10" frame. The Blazers traded him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for cash.
To select Withey and Jerrett the Blazers passed on shooting guard Jamaal Franklin (again), first-round-projected shooting guard Ricky Ledo, and center Mike Muscala. Judging by talent and reputation alone, these were the most daring of Portland's selections...the hardest to justify.
Portland's final selection of the draft was a 6'11", 240lb, 21 year old center from Montenegro currently playing in Spain. The good news is that the kid is playing at the highest level of European ball. The bad news is that he's third on his team's depth chart at center and is earning fewer than 8 minutes per game.
On a per-minute basis Todorovic looks like a fantastic rebounder and a good shot blocker. He scores efficiently because his offense is limited to arm's-length reach from the rim. DraftExpress paints him as mobile and energetic. He has plenty of time to develop a more varied and refined game.
Since he'll remain in Europe for the foreseeable future Todorovic was a no-fault pick. Few players of note were drafted after him.
The Blazers didn't shoot the moon with this draft but again, there was probably no moon to be shot. Considering the evening as its own microcosm they did well.
They did not revolutionize the team in any way, shape, or form however. The best Portland fans can hope for this that the combination of McCollum and Crabbe will alleviate Portland's need for a big-scoring guard in the backcourt, freeing up salary cap space to chase centers and other assorted bench players. By point production alone there's a chance of that happening. If you start looking at skill, particularly handles and finishing power, the outlook gets murkier. But it seems like that's the plan going forward. Given the constraints of this draft it's a reasonable one.
Since no individual step this summer will take the Blazers to the promised land, Portland fans will have to lay back for a while and judge the summer as a whole. If Neil Olshey and company strike gold in the free agency/trade window then this draft should be good enough to supplement those moves. The Blazers will be in good shape. But if the best they can do is duplicate this level of success (i.e. "It was pretty good considering what they had to work with...") improvement will be incremental. The Blazers are closer to mediocre from here than they were pre-draft, but leapfrogging to good will take more effort.
Thanks to Ben and Timmay for keeping us updated throughout the day and for all who participated in our draft open threads and the discussion in the last few weeks. We'll continue to explore the ramifications of the draft, LaMarcus Aldridge rumors, and the upcoming free agency period over the next few days. For now, enjoy the thought of C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard playing off of each other and draining jumpers over bewildered defenders.