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Full Court Press

Now that the early entrant withdrawal deadline has passed and NBA teams officially know who is in and who is out, draft preview season kicks into high gear.  There's a bunch of interesting mock drafts out there already and most seem to agree the Blazers will be looking to add frontcourt depth.

Before we get to those, though, here's what you might have missed on Blazersedge recently...


Dave's Season in Review: Roy | Aldridge | Batum | Miller | Awards

Early Draft Workout Information | Batum's Chasedowns


In addition to the most pertinent early draft links, click through to see which Blazer gets called out by Common, which Blazer made the Blogfather's most disappointing players list, what's next for Martell Webster and Dante Cunningham, who needs to rebuild because the Blazers are breathing down their neck, which Summer Leaguer last year was taken aback after the Blazers drafted Patty Mills and a writer who is 3/4 convinced Mark Warkentien will make his return to Portland this summer.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter

Eric Freeman of the Sporting News interviews rapper/actor Common...

EF: This next question I have to ask because it's a weird thing I've noticed in the previews. Your character gets injured in an All-Star Game, which is something I've never seen happen. But regardless, which NBA player you think would be most likely to get hurt in that game? 

Common: [Laughs] Let me think about that. 

EF: One of my friends thinks it has to be Greg Oden. 

Common: Yeah, I think that's the case for ... anything. Who else, though? I think it might be Paul Pierce, but it's not because he gets injured a lot. He cares a lot when he plays. I don't want to put that on him, because he's one of the most underrated out there. What he did in that championship against the Lakers -- he has to stick Kobe, and he was sticking Kobe. But he gives it his all, so no doubt he could get hurt. Either him or Brandon Jennings, because he's kind of thin.     

Henry Abbott says Brandon Roy was the second most disappointing player in the playoffs...

He rushed back from knee surgery to help his Trail Blazers for the final three games of the season, and may have helped to hasten their demise. In three gimpy games, Roy was literally one of the least productive players in the entire playoffs (player efficiency rating: 4.5). You can't blame him for trying, but you can admit that he was playing with a remarkable absence of athleticism.

A lot of Blazers fans wondered why players likeJerryd Bayless, Dante Cunningham and Martell Webster were in the game, and the answer was because in a world in which Portland coach Nate McMillan had to count on older players like Juwan Howard, Marcus Camby and Andre Miller, those youngsters -- and not Roy -- provided much-needed bounce, hustle and energy. Roy's fruitless 4-of-16 play in Portland's season-ending Game 6 will haunt all summer.

Pooh Jeter, former UP point guard and Blazers Summer Leaguer last year, blogs that he will be back in Vegas this summer and suggests he was surprised the Blazers took Patty Mills last year...

This is going to be my fifth year playing though. Seems like I am a NBA summer league veteran. But the best thing about playing in summer league is I'm competing against other players that want the same spot that I want. 

In previous years I played a lot in summer league, so I hope it doesn't change this summer. Playing in front of NBA and European teams just gets you a lot of exposure. 

I gave a verbal to a team already so we shall see how that goes on draft night. Last year, I gave an early verbal to the Portland Trailblazers, and they ended up drafting Patty Mills in the second round. It ended up working out for me anyway because Pat got hurt. I'm glad to see him back on the court now.     

Dwight Jaynes poses a good question in the wake of Phoenix's sweep over San Antonio...

What's your most overpowering thought about that, in conjunction with the Trail Blazers? Is it pride, that the Blazers were able to get a couple of games off the Suns and the Spurs were not?

Or is it anger that Portland couldn't get past the Suns, knowing that the Spurs were so soft in the second round?

Brother Wendell Maxey wonders whether Martell Webster is one dimensional on offense...

The concern moving forward is, after five years in the league has Martell become a one dimensional player on offense - a 6'7 small forward who lives beyond the arc and fails to put the ball on the floor and go to the rack?

And that's really the knock with Martell at this point. It coincides with his love for the jumper - a shot where infatuation often results in frustration. Here's the real number to examine: Webster ranked 149th in the league in free-throw attempts (155), tying him with Detroit's robust power forward, Jason Maxiell. That's not a good thing. For Portland's sake, Martell needs to get to the line more. He needs to shake guys with a quick first step and get to the rim like he's shown glimpses of doing.

SJ from Rip City Project wants to see more from Dante Cunningham next year...

The first thing that jumped out to me about Cunningham's rookie campaign is that he always seemed like he belonged. He clearly had a natural feel about the game and it came off when he was on the floor. As his minutes increased and we got more chances to see him, you never felt like the wheels were going to fall off. Cunningham did the little things all year long, whether that was sliding his feet, boxing out or hedging ball screens, Cunningham did the dirty work. Whether it was crashing the boards, making good cuts or running on the break, he played hard, played with energy and let the game come to him. That's a lot coming from a rookie.

The good that came from Cunningham's season also comes with the openness for potential. There were times when Cunningham was on the floor where he could sometimes float and disappear. Sometimes he struggled with bigger players and had ‘no luck' on the inside. He needs to develop a definite skillset. We know he can do the little things, but he needs the skills to back those up. Cunningham gets a checkbox in the intangibles box but needs work in the skills box. He can shoot...but what else? Dribbling? Post moves?

In a nice hometown profile, Doug Whiteley writes that Travis Diener enjoyed his time in Portland and is not afraid to go overseas...

He said whatever opportunity comes along, he's going to take advantage and be excited to play for that team and coach. Should no NBA organization come calling, however, he said he has plenty of basketball left in him at 28 years old.

"If something doesn't work out here, I'm not afraid at all to go overseas to play," he said. "It's a high level over there, but my first objective is to get another contract here. But you have to weigh all the options. One of the options for me is I want a chance to play and play a lot.

"We'll see what happens; there's still a lot up in the air. In a couple of months I'll know more."

Sam Smith believes the Blazers are a reason for the San Antonio Spurs to rebuild...

With more athletic teams like the Thunder, Trail Blazers and even Grizzlies coming, the Spurs seem at a crossroads. With Duncan having two years left on his deal and Ginobili's extension, the Spurs will continue on, most likely. But the way the Spurs have to nurse Duncan through the season, it seems the beginning of the end. Which we have heard before. But all good things do come to an end.    

ESPN's Dave McMenamin asked Phil Jackson about the fans in Utah and the Rose Garden got a shout out...

Jackson was asked about the boisterous Utah crowd before the game and said he learned what to expect from "people in the valley" by reading Zane Grey's "Riders of the Purple Sage" as a child.

Jackson recommended the book, but wasn't quite as in favor of the fans. Although he wouldn't classify Jazz jeers as the worst in the league.

"You've got a whole contingent of Detroit and Boston and Philadelphia people that rank very high" Jackson said. "But for our Western comfort in fine hospitality [Utah fans are the nastiest], although Portland's got some people there that have shown their valor."

HoopsWorld's Travis Heath on Denver's front office.

For starters, Denver has to decide who exactly will comprise the team's front office heading into next season.  For the last couple of months informed sources have speculated current Vice President of Player Personnel Rex Chapman won't be back.  Such speculation has only heated up since the season concluded last week.

Of course, there's no guarantee Vice President of Basketball Operations Mark Warkentien will be back, either.  Multiple sources close to the team have stated that the two sides are trying to get a deal done this week, but nothing has yet been agreed upon.  

There is always the possibility that neither Chapman nor Warkentien comes back.  A person currently employed by a NBA team told HOOPSWORLD that Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is still a big fan of Warkentien.  He indicated there is "a 75 percent chance" Warkentien lands back in Portland with the Blazers this summer.  It's obvious at this juncture that Warkentien's future is fluid and has the potential to change very quickly.

Kevin Pelton reviews the Suns/Spurs series and comes to a deja vu conclusion for Blazers fans...

Ultimately, Phoenix just had too many weapons for the Spurs to handle.    

NBA Draft

Scott Schroeder has his Mock Draft version 2.0.  He has the Blazers taking Damion James in the first round and Robin Benzing in the second round...

22. Portland Trailblazers - Damion James, F (Texas Senior)
I had Quincy Pondexter here earlier, but after talking to some people who have opinions that I trust more than my own I've decided to give James a considerable bump.  Chad Ford still likes him more than me, however, as James went No. 20 to the Spurs in his first mock draft saying "James might be one of the more underrated players in the draft. Very few players have his combination of athleticism and motor. He doesn't have a position on offense, but he's a Spurs type of player all the way."  Well, the Spurs and the Blazers both have smart front offices, so I'll assume he can be a Blazers type of player as well.   BlazersEdge has had their eye on him as well.  Check out Burnt Orange Nation as well.  I couldn't decide on an individual article, but they know their stuff so feel free to browse around.    

Chad Ford has the Blazers taking Larry Sanders after his original pick, Kenneth Faried, decided to return to school...

Analysis: Sanders is raw, but he's a young, athletic shot-blocker who gets up and down the floor and rebounds. Given the Blazers' depth, they would seem to have the time and patience to develop him over the next couple of seasons.

Ryan McNeill over at Hoops Addict has both Quincy Pondexter and Larry Sanders in the Blazers range...

21. Quincy Pondexter (Washington): Remember last season how senior guard Darren Collison dropped in the draft because scouts could pick out all his warts after watching him play for four seasons? This year Pondexter is in a similar situation. Look for him to go late in the first round and for a team to get a huge steal.

22. Larry Sanders (VCU): It's a shame that most people will dwell on his final conference game where he only scored six points against ODU. Before that he was tearing up the CAA Tournament until that game. He finished the season averaging 14.1 points and 9.1 rebounds and looks to be a legit bench player next season for an NBA team. I still feel he has the chance to grow into a special player.

Draft Express has the Blazers taking Fresno State's Paul George.

Fresno State's Paul George has steadily been climbing NBA draft boards since he broke out onto the national scene as a freshman last season. We were high on him a year ago and he's certainly made improvements to his game - living up to the preseason hype that surrounded him in the beginning of the year. His versatility, athleticism and scoring ability are all part of the package of this highly talented small forward, and in a draft class limited with skilled wing players; George could be one of the best options at that position come June.

Rip City Project has the Blazers taking Dominique Jones, a combo guard from South Florida.

Quick Hits

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter