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Why I Would Trade Up and Draft a Point Guard

Last night on Talkin' Ball I argued that I would trade up and draft a point guard in this year's draft. I think the reaction is fairly characterized as astonished, given the Blazers history of drafting point guards and failing to develop them. I've also been engaged in a little tete a tete with SJ over at Rip City Project on this issue.

I've fleshed out my thoughts; here's my reasoning. I invite your torpedoes.

The Blazers clearly have 2 needs: the backup 4 and the 1. And not just the starting 1 but the entire rotation at 1. Keeping 3 point guards is going to be a reality because of the personnel that are locked in at 2, 3 and 5. A third string point guard is simply more valuable to this team than a 3rd string center, a 74th string small forward or a corpse to play behind Roy and Rudy.

So do you draft for the 1 or the 4?

I see this draft as being very weak at 4. Outside of Blair, is there a single 4 worth considering? The cost to move up to get Blair will probably be quite high -- he's rising to 8 or 9 on some boards and may well finish higher with news of his great workouts and improved physique. As Dave mentioned below, moving up that far is going to cost a pretty penny. The other big name at 4 is Jordan Hill. Getting him is a possibility if Washington is really moving their pick at #5 but that would be even more costly.

The fundamental question here is: do you want to give up a single important asset to draft a backup 4 from college? I say no. The backup 4 question is ideally (and relatively easily, one would hope) addressed via free agency. Brandon Bass is a great name that Rip City Project threw out there. I'd rather have him right now (in the short term) for this team than any 4 in the draft.

Analysts see this draft as weak overall. I pretty much agree but I do think it's deep with one commodity: point guards. Because of the lack of quality and depth at some of the other positions, I think most of the point guards that might make sense for us will be gone by the time we pick. Blazers Scout Chad Buchanan acknowledged the likelihood of trading up last week.

I think the strategy at the 24 spot (plus 2nd round picks and cash) is looking to get the best value. A relatively small move up (roughly 8-12 spots) will cost quite a bit less than moving up further than that. Luckily, in that range, there should be solid backup (ideally 3rd string) point guards available.

The question to ask is: is a point guard in that range an upgrade over Sergio? Surely, Bayless will be in front of any rookie on the depth chart; in fact I'd give him a 40% chance of beating out Blake for the starting spot if both return. Sergio is the one leaving. So if you're looking to upgrade the entire point guard rotation, you're simply looking for a better player than Sergio. I think Ty Lawson qualifies in the short term. Flynn probably does as well.

The ideal pick-up is someone with complementary skills to Bayless so you have a different look to throw at teams based on matchups. My number one target would be Ty Lawson: he's pass-first and can break down defenses, plus do a better job of matching up against smaller, quicker point guards. Again, he would be slotting into the 3rd point guard spot and you play him limited minutes in the short term. Essentially, a situational player to start off. If Lawson can be had in the 12-16 range I think it's a no-brainer.

Another benefit of drafting a point guard is that it gives you flexibility for future moves (or non-moves).

My biggest fear in life right now is that KP sticks with Blake. By drafting a point guard, you change your PG rotation to Blake, Bayless, Lawson (or whomever) and have at least upgraded your rotation at 1 from last year, especially in terms of athleticism and potential.

But let's say KP decides to take the plunge and does go after a serious, veteran PG in free agency. Drafting a point guard allows you to feel totally comfortable trading either Blake or Bayless for a starting 1 because you've got a depth cushion behind him. After trading away one of those guys you'd still have 3 point guards on the roster in case of injury, etc. On the other hand, if you don't draft a PG and trade Blake in a package for a starter you'd be left with that veteran starter and Bayless and nothing else; one injury, like what happened to Blake this year, and you're up a serious creek.

The next question is: which Free Agent PGs do you target? That will come later. Nash is not in the conversation. Sounds like Miller probably isn't either. Running a rotation of Kidd, Bayless and Lawson would be a significant upgrade from this year despite Kidd's many faults, however, it might come at too great a cost. Depends what Dallas decides to do with him.

But imagine a rotation with Hinrich, Bayless and Lawson. That seems plausible and would be a significant upgrade from this season. It might not be ideal but I think you can make the Western Conference Finals next season with that rotation.

The Mike Conley idea that's been floating is also solid. But if Memphis doesn't take Rubio (sounds like they won't) it's probably not happening. But, again, if your rotation was Conley, Bayless, Lawson I think you're very, very, very happy and super flexibile going forward. You're also probably looking at a playoff series victory.

To summarize: trading up to draft a quality point guard gives you a replacement (hopefully an upgrade) for Sergio, added depth at the team's weakest position, flexibility to pursue free agent point guards and probably comes at a smaller cost than drafting a difference-making 4.

-- Ben (