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Well, you can’t win it every year I suppose.  Despite my protest of the system, couched in the words “I don’t want the Blazers to move up”, I must admit I did feel a twinge of indignation when Chicago’s name was announced.  The flaw in my plan:  If they’re going to, why not us?  But still, I remain resolved.  Thirteen isn’t that bad of a pick for a .500 team.  There were decades when the 13th pick would have looked like a buffet of draftiness to this organization.  Kevin Pritchard and the Blazers scouting organization will make the pick count for as much as possible, I’m sure.

One of the big questions now is, “How much is possible?”  In a way, those early-teens picks are in no-man’s-land.  Technically they’re a lottery pick so you expect a player who can contribute.  You’re not looking for your 10th man here.  On the other hand, 12 guys have already been snatched off the board.  Unless you get lucky, crafty, or both you’re probably not going to get an immediate star or even starter.  (I’m sure we can find a decent handful of exceptions, but keep in mind how long the draft has been going compared to those exceptions.)  The best you can say is that you hope this guy becomes a significant part of the rotation down the line but you don’t necessarily forecast him doing it this year.

Realizing this, it becomes fairly evident that unless two players are so equal on their draft board as to make them indistinguishable, the Blazers are going to have to go for the best (potential) player available here.  Brandon Roy or no, you don’t want to miss out on your 18 ppg shooting guard because you went for the 6 point, 4 assist point guard.  This is especially true since the Blazers have other means (impending cap space, reasonably attractive trade assets, and there will be other drafts) to address their gaps in a more targeted fashion.  You don’t pull out the boomerang if you’ve got a bazooka slung over your back. You take the guy who has the best chance to playing meaningful minutes in this league and worry about how and where to play him later.  If nothing else his potential and low salary should make him a decent trade prospect for the next few years.

This pick smacks of project players and maybe a little gambling.  The good part:  this leaves the field wide open.  Young underclassmen, Europeans, college seniors, sleepers…no matter what the position all are fair game.  This should make for some great draft discussion between now and June.  The difficult part: if there’s one thing the Blazers don’t need more of, it’s youngsters, European projects, and the like.  Those who speculate that the pick may be traded probably have a fair amount of traction to their argument.  Whether trading up or out, the Blazers would probably jump at the chance to add more predictable value to this asset.  They’ll like #13, but they’re unlikely to love it.  The problem here is the relative unattractiveness of the asset compared to those we’ve held the last couple of years.  Kevin Pritchard may be a genius, but when you approach the marketplace with $50 you don’t have near the buying power of the guy whose wallet is oozing $100’s no matter how smart or charismatic you are.

The most salient fact in the whole discussion, however, is the one I brought up while signing out of the Lottery Open Thread.  Never forget, Blazer fans, that the most important new player entering the league this year will not be found anywhere on the draft board.  It will be Greg Oden, hands down.  Knee or no knee, every team in this draft would cheerfully trade their pick to get him.  You heard about Rose and Beasley in the last few months.  You knew who Greg Oden was when he was a freshman in high school.  There’s a difference. 

--Dave (