We've been through the draft talk without asking the most important question. How important or not important will this draft be? Answer?
I'm going to assume you mean important for the Portland Trail Blazers. I'm having a hard time getting a read on the significance of this draft class as a whole. It seems like 2-3 really good players could come out of the bunch but it's hard to tag which those will be. Several potential high draftees seem overrated and several potential low draftees seem underrated. On Thursday night we'll probably see 3-4 obvious picks and then a whole lot of guesswork.
As far as the Blazers go, this draft doesn't scan as important but you never know. Parity among draftees may allow teams to move around with comfort. Portland could make a trade, upping the stakes.
If the Blazers stay at #23, they'll have trouble finding an immediate franchise-changer at that level. But even if this draft won't alter the course of the 2015-16 season, it could prove important down the road in a couple ways.
1. Portland hasn't done well with lower picks in the last decade. Neil Olshey and company have done a credible job in the lottery. Here's a chance to show that emulating the San Antonio Spurs isn't just a pipe dream. The franchise is not in a position to waste any asset, even a relatively modest one. Even if they don't strike gold, they need a player.
2. Assuming CJ McCollum and Meyers Leonard are at a point where they'll come into their own (or not), the Blazers are now in a position to begin building the next generation of up-and-comers. Everybody else on the bench is a veteran or a longshot. Portland needs a couple more solid prospects, players they think could blossom 3 years down the road. The first round of the NBA Draft is the best place to find those prospects.
This is why I suggested last week that the Blazers might double-dip, acquiring another first- or second-round pick (or both) to speculate with. With the amount of turmoil that's likely to hit the roster over the next 14 months, they may need a young body or two in reserve.
I've been reading all over that LSU forward Jarell Martin has a draft promise in the first round, and he's shut down all workouts. I've also noted that the Blazers are the only team he's visited, though he did participate in a public workout in Vegas. I thought this would be a great idea for a short piece or a mailbag question. He's actually my favorite prospect in the back end of the first round, so I'd love to see this happen.
-George, AKA TheStripes
He's been associated with Memphis and Milwaukee as well, plus he's worked out for far more teams than you suggest. Promises or no, I doubt an agent would let a guy projected to go between 17th and 37th overall in the draft work out for just one franchise. Too many things can go wrong.
I like Martin overall but I foresee issues in a partnership with the Blazers. He was originally projected as a combo power forward-small forward. He may not be tall enough to pull that off, leaving him as a fairly big, athletic 3. In Portland's current system that would leave him out on the perimeter, taking away his post-up game. But jump shooting is the weakest part of his offensive arsenal. He may be able to make hay off the drive, bringing a new wrinkle into the offense, but that's a pretty thin thread to base a draft pick on. Martin is not known as a defender or rebounder. Portland would be drafting him for his offensive potential and there's not enough fit there.
If the Blazers are going to draft a project perimeter player who can't shoot jumpers that well, why wouldn't they go with someone who can play on both ends or at least bring something else to the table? I could see them buying in to get Martin if he slips to the second round, but he'd be problematic as their only first-round selection.
With the possibility of LaMarcus leaving (or even if he stayed), And the difficulty of getting an impact player at 23. What would be the advisability of swinging for the fences with Robert Upshaw. Would any other pick potentially be a difference maker, if we have to build without LaMarcus. Does LaMarcus want to go to any team that could offer us a difference maker in a sign and trade. The odds of replacing LaMarcus in free agency would appear to be be non existent. So if we try with Robert and he fails its not like we wasted the number one or two pick in the draft. But If he worked, it would be like we lucked into a lottery pick.
I'm cool with taking a swing at Upshaw if there's nobody else Portland likes when their pick comes around and/or if they can get him in the second round. If he's still around when the Celtics, Lakers, or Sixers come up, maybe the Blazers could make a move.
Upshaw has size, athleticism, and an instinct for finishing that can't be taught. He'll do well enough on the offensive end and on the glass, especially if he starts his career as a reserve (which he'd certainly do in Portland). I'm not sure his defensive game will transfer immediately. He looks like he'll get owned his first year or two. But he'll also block shots spectacularly during that period. Once he becomes accustomed to the league, he should be fine.
Getting kicked off of two separate college teams in two years is a major concern, but as I mentioned last week, Portland has the locker room and coaching staff to deal with that sort of thing. Presuming it can be dealt with, that is. But even if not, guys with attitude issues don't usually flame out right away. More often they spend a few years making people guess, developing enough to show their ability and earn a new contract. You need to worry about old habits when they become comfortable again. At the cost of a low draft pick, the Blazers can absorb that growth curve, get some solid years out of Upshaw, and then look to trade him to someone enamored of his potential if they don't think he can develop into a permanent starter. As you say, there's no loss there...if they also have other plans. But putting all their eggs (or even 7 of the dozen) in Upshaw's basket would be a mistake.
We'll do one more Mailbag before draft night. If you've got a question, send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org!
--Dave email@example.com / @DaveDeckard / @Blazersedge