As we reach the final day of the Blazer's Edge All-Time Draft week, the General Managers (Chris Lucia, Sagar Trika, Dane Carbaugh, and myself) took the time to answer some various questions about the draft itself. Consider this a "post draft informal interview" with each GM, to get some insights into their thoughts. This is part 1, check in tomorrow for part 2. Let's dig in!
[Ed. Note: I sent out the questions while GM Sam Tongue was unavailable. Sorry about that, Sam! His responses are added now!]
Which player were you most proud of drafting, considering his draft position?
Chris: I wasn't convinced Rasheed Wallace would make it to where I got him at No. 10.
Sagar: My pick of Andre Miller at #35 was a bit lower for him than I had expected. The fact that I was able to pick up a veteran backup of his caliber.
Dane: Mychal Thompson. I knew centers were going to be thin and that everyone would panic, trying to take them up high. I knew I could get better value than trying to take Arvydas Sabonis in the first four rounds, or even trying to pick up Joel Przybilla soon after. Thompson was a devastating scorer and rebounder and was totally undervalued.
Tim: It has to be Jim Paxson for me. I decided to wait until my 5th pick to grab a SG because I was hoping Paxson might fall, and as my team came together, I knew he was a nearly perfect fit. He was so good in the first half of the '80s, and Drexler overshadowed him thoroughly, so I was hopeful he'd be my sleeper. Here were my first three tiers of SG's:
1. Clyde Drexler (duh)
2. Brandon Roy and Geoff Petrie
3. Jim Paxson and Billy Ray Bates
By the time we'd reached pick 9, tiers 1 and 2 were already long gone (kudos to the GM's). When Dane and Sam didn't grab him before #19, I had a sigh of relief, because Chris was unlikely to pair Drexler and Paxson.
Sam: This one is easy: to get Kiki Vandeweghe as my first guy of the bench was a complete and total steal. There's a legitimate argument that he should've been a third or fourth rounder. His massive slide was a huge help.
Who was the best Blazer that didn't get picked?
Chris: Even though he had fairly limited attempts, Wesley Person shot 47.4 percent from deep in Portland. He'd make a really good three-point specialist off the bench, but is limited otherwise. In terms of sheer talent? I'll say J.R. Rider, but he got passed up for obvious reasons. Any of the GMs could easily justify taking Robin Lopez or Theo Ratliff, too.
Sagar: This is tough because there are so many ways to judge players (statistically, chemistry-wise, etc). People may not agree due to being a Blazer very recently, but I think both JJ Hickson and Gerald Wallace could've been had. Both give 110% on the court and are statistically great, especially Hickson (he was a double-double machine!). Picking one of those two, is tough.
Dane: That's a really hard question to answer because I think a lot of people's opinions on players have been formed after they were Blazers. Channing Frye, for example, was not Phoenix Suns/Orlando Magic Frye. The same can be said for Drazen Petrovic, Detlef and a bunch of other guys who were better either before or after Rip City. I'm going to say Robin Lopez just because we know everyone loves him and he is a solid player, era-to-era, if nothing else. I'll take Lopez' first season in Portland any day.
Tim: My "Blazer that got away" was Bobby Gross, so I'm going to stick with him for this question. Ramsay credited Gross' intense defense and surprising offense as one of the key factors for Portland's 1977 playoff run. He would have been a wonderful backup small forward for any team. Kermit Washington and Steve Johnson both made the All-Star Game but didn't get picked. They'd probably be among the runners-up.
Sam: I think there was probably some value in some of the more recent Blazers -- we probably underrated them because old often is perceived as better in these types of drafts. So guys like Robin Lopez, Gerald Wallace, etc. were guys you could mention in this category.
Which picks frustrated you because you had them on your radar?
Chris: I didn't plan on taking him this late until he fell a few spots, but if I could've nabbed Sabonis at No. 20 I would've been stoked. I wanted [Andre] Miller there at the end, too, but Sagar swiped him at No. 35. If Lillard fell one more spot to me at No. 10, drafting him would've been a no-brainer.
Sagar: I was hoping Mychal Thompson would slide to me, but Dane snatched him. I was also considering picking either Marcus Camby or Joel Przybilla to provide interior defense with my eighth round pick, but Timmay took Camby and Sam took the Vanilla Gorilla, both in the seventh round.
Dane: Nic Batum went a little earlier than I thought he would but I wasn't planning on him absolutely being free come draft time. Kiki was one of my big sleeper picks so I thought he might fall to me. I got Thompson with that pick instead, and based on the conversation between GMs after the draft it looks like it would have been one or the other. With the makeup of my team, I would rather have Thompson than Kiki if I couldn't get both, so I think it all worked out.
Tim: For #29, I'd hoped Mychal Thompson would be available, and if not, Kiki Vandeweghe. And go figure, they were taken with picks 27 and 28. I was growling, even though they were absolutely great picks (perhaps because so). I would have picked Sabonis at #19 if he was still on the board (he would have been far too good a value to pass), and Sam smartly grabbed him. I would have loved Brian Grant to back up Buck Williams, but there was no way he'd make it to #29. Lastly, I quietly hoped that perhaps Brandon Roy would fall to #9. In retrospect, that was a foolish hope; there was no chance.
Sam: It wasn't necessary things that frustrated me, it was more interesting to see how things rolled out in front of me. I sort of had to recreate my strategy once I took Porter/Petrie 1-2, so in that regard there wasn't necessarily someone that I thought "CRAP I NEEDED HIM."
Did anything in the draft surprise you?
Chris: I was surprised that injury concerns didn't seem very heavily weighted by the readers. I also thought Dane drafting Maurice Lucas at No. 3 was a bold move, and same for Sam's pick of Terry Porter at No. 4 and Sagar's pick of Brandon Roy at No. 5. Sam's team is mainly composed of guys from pre-2000s teams, which I find interesting. Props to a younger guy for doing some solid research and respecting those years.
Sagar: I was shocked Lillard and Nicolas Batum went as high as they did (Lillard to Timmay at #9 and Batum to Chris at #11). Chris's pick of Jarrett Jack at #20 was also surprising, given the plethora of guards on the board.
Dane: Some picks in surprised me just in overvaluation of talent. I had planned for recency bias and nostalgia to sort of dominate the draft and it did. I fully expected Sabonis to go too high, for Randolph to fall and so forth. I still drafted more recently than not just on the basis of grabbing size and athleticism in some cases.
I think it was interesting to see how much people skirted the idea of "Blazer Greats" as they tried to complete whole teams. Dale Davis, Steve Smith, Przybilla, etc. are not in the category of "greats" especially considering their years in a Blazer uniform. Then again, several players I picked had productive seasons but were universally hated by the end of their tenure (Kenny Anderson, Bonzi Wells) and I wouldn't call either of those guys "greats" so it takes all kinds.
The discussion that this created was, of course, the motivation behind it all and the most interesting part. Seeing folks argue for the merit of Jermaine O'Neal was great because he sat behind Kelvin Cato of all people. I remember very clearly watching him in limited minutes go nuts on people and lamenting with my father that he should bump Cato out of the lineup. We were proven right when he went to the Pacers and became an All-Star, but there's no legitimate reason to put O'Neal on a list of Blazer greats when he never even broke the 900-minute mark in any season in Portland. Then again, it's hard to pick 40 guys who were "great" so maybe you could argue for O'Neal on the basis of his per-36 production. It was fun to watch arguments for both sides.
Part of the surprise for me was the negative reaction to my team, even from the get-go. I was taken aback when people balked at Maurice Lucas at No. 3. It's hard to divorce passion or hatred from players of objective analysis of how they match up or would play in different circumstances from their original place with Portland. I think it's safe to say each of these teams are championship caliber, so if they are put together in that atmosphere I think it also changes how some of these players act. Maybe that's too abstract for the exercise.
Sam: I think the thing that was most surprising was how draft strategy was different on all of our parts. What I mean by that is that it wasn't a "Best Player Available" situation -- some guys (Dane I think in particular) went a little off the beaten path for a lot of their picks, so that was cool to see. I think we all really took the concept of creating a "team" to heart, rather than going the fantasy football route.
Tim: In terms of other GM's picks, my biggest surprises as they were announced were Jarrett Jack and Lloyd Neal, though both GM's did a really nice job of explaining their reasoning. But I didn't see those picks coming. I also expected Batum to go later, but he's so versatile, I never expected him to reach my next pick at #19. So it wasn't a big surprise.
My biggest surprise was the reaction to picking Cliff Robinson. Even though he backed up Jerome Kersey, then later started at SF for his last three seasons as a Blazer, many responded that he was playing out of position. Young Uncle Cliffy manned SF regularly. On top of that, there seemed to be a some ill will toward Cliff; it felt like, no matter what Cliff did afterward, popular opinion about him begins and ends with one dropped pass.
Lastly, I expected picking Damian Lillard at #9 to be controversial. I thought I was reaching, but he was so perfect for the team I was trying to build. Instead everyone loved it, and some thought he should go higher. Damian Lillard is quite beloved in Portland!
Tomorrow: Regrets, steals, favorite teams, and jersey choices!