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2012 NBA Draft: The Portland Trail Blazers, Jeremy Lamb, and Dion Waiters

Could this guy stride his way into a Portland uniform come draft night?  Photo: Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE
Could this guy stride his way into a Portland uniform come draft night? Photo: Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE

Our roll through potential Portland Trail Blazers 2012 NBA draft candidates continues today with a couple of shooting guards. If you missed the earlier installments you can find analysis of Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, and .Harrison Barnes through these links.

Jeremy Lamb

Jeremy Lamb is a 6'5", 185 lb Sophomore shooting guard from Connecticut. His distinctions are two: a freakishly long 6'11" wingspan and a feathery shooting touch. Combined they make him a potent offensive weapon.

Lamb is completely unafraid to shoot. He'll attempt, and hit, jumpers from anywhere on the court. In the lane he prefers the floater. In the mid-range it's a two-dribble pull-up. Then you get out to three-point land. This guy has Dan Majerle range. He will bomb it from deep. Oddly enough, his shooting form looks even better from beyond the arc than from the mid-range. He's quick, decisive, and (considering the range) accurate.

Lamb carries a couple bonus extras. He can jump...almost unfairly so given those Inspector Gadget arms. He's also a serious threat in the passing lane for the same reason.

Ironically enough his assets may have stunted his development a little. In college the wingspan and shooting stroke were enough to get him open from anywhere. "Anywhere" being good enough, Lamb never learned about high percentage shots. He doesn't get to the rim, instead lofting those floaters. Therefore he doesn't draw fouls. He's prone to taking low percentage shots, so when he goes bad he goes really bad. He doesn't always know the difference either, knee deep in the shooter's curse of thinking the next one is going in.

On defense Lamb both benefits from and over-relies upon his length. He gets his hands on the ball and in front of opponent shots, but he's also prone to standing back and swatting on defense instead of playing with his feet and body. In the NBA he'll either find people driving by his swipes or he'll actually get his hand on the ball but the opponent will be stronger with more leverage. Either way it's going to be a foul on Lamb.

At 185 lbs and not exactly hulking in physique, Lamb will have to add bulk and strength over the next few years. He's 20 so there's room, provided he's committed enough and understands that he'll need more than just his natural assets to succeed.

Lamb should be tantalizing for the Blazers. They already have a couple of veteran shooter-defenders in Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews but you can never have too much perimeter shooting and Lamb has a couple advantages over either: wider array of shots and a natural star/scorer instinct. If he can also reach a Matthews-Batum level of defense he'd be one heck of a player. On the other hand he's duplicating their roster in the short term instead of adding something new. He'd also be wasted--likely in his own estimation if not in fact--playing behind Matthews at shooting guard. He doesn't seem the patient kind, nor a guy who will defer to teammates for long. He needs license to shoot and create. If not, his game could sour. Also problematic: #6 is likely too high to select Lamb (for the Blazers anyway) but he won't be there at #11, mandating at least a small move upward to get him. (Assuming, of course, the Blazers retain the 6th pick instead of trading down.) The natural exchange would be Matthews, whom Lamb would make expendable. But that's a steep price to move up a couple of spots in the mid-lottery. Unless the Blazers have Lamb tabbed as THE guy, he's just not in their draft position wheelhouse.

Dion Waiters

6'4", 220 lb Sophomore shooting guard Dion Waiters became the instant offense option off of the Syracuse bench last year. In a draft class full of gentlemen and scholars he's the bull. He will put his head down, dribble into the lane, and score at the cup. He's compact, weighty, strong, and he wants to put the ball in the hole so badly that his opponents couldn't stop him. He can dribble with either hand. He laughs at contact. He can hit the deep jumper as well, keeping defenders honest. His multi-dimensional scoring ability keeps them guessing. By the time they figure out what he's doing, it's too late. BOOM. He's by you and into the lane. You might as well stop a runaway train after that.

The absolute dream for Waiters would be the killer drive-and-dish guard. Once he gets a step the defense has a choice. If they don't send other men he's going to score, probably with the and-one. If they collapse he finds and open shooter. Lather-Rinse-Repeat all night long for good, old-fashioned solid NBA guard scoring. Waiters has the raw talent and scoring nose to make that happen.

On the other hand...Waiters is 6'4" in shoes only. Those barefoot measurements say 6'2" and a half inch more. Granted, basketball is usually played in shoes, but the 6'2" number shows you that this guy isn't true shooting guard size. Nor is he a true point guard by any stretch of the imagination. You know what that leaves? A bulky, bull-headed scoring combo guard. Raise your hand if you've heard that description before. Keep your hand up if the guy you're thinking of worked out. You can find a few examples, but they need to be pretty point-guard-ish or they need near-boundless talent. Waiters probably doesn't fit either description. As we've said before, the new vogue in the league is to play two smaller guards together, but even so drafting Waiters is a risk. We've seen plenty of his type end up on the junk heap.

You also have to place an asterisk by nearly every strong point we've named. Waiters can shoot from deep but he's streaky, not at all comparable to the pure shooters we've looked at so far. He's got a great attacking dribble but he also makes plenty of mistakes with it. As soon as he gets lost (read: can't get by on the first dribble) he's either going to pick up the ball or dribble himself into oblivion. He doesn't have the court vision or passing skills to work around good defense. If he's not scoring he's not helping. Even his bulk and toughness--strong assets both--have shown dark sides. He came in overweight as a freshman and butted heads with his college coaches throughout his career...never starting for the Orangemen.

Everything about Waiters screams "instant bench offense". The echoes of that scream reverberate "risky...risky...risky". The Blazers could use somebody who could get to the rim with Waiters' ability and passion. He's neither soft nor shy, two characteristics which typify Portland's current guard corps and many of Waiters' fellow draftees. Watching him power to the hoop is like a breath of fresh air. But do the Blazers want to spend a lottery pick on a combo guard bench player who isn't useful unless his offense is going well? Doesn't that description also typify the guards coming off of Portland's bench already? Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams already create a quandary. Can you imagine adding Waiters to that mix? Rolling the dice to add another tweener guard who needs to score in order to be effective doesn't make a ton of sense. You'd have to be pretty high on the guy to make the reward worth the risk.

What say you? Do either Lamb or Waiters float your boat? What would you give up in order to get them...draft picks alone or would you consider trading up or down for either? Weigh in below.

--Dave (