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Pundits Offer Mixed Reviews for Trail Blazers Draft Night

Opinions on Portland's draft performance are all over the map.

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Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last 48 hours the Portland Trail Blazers have completed three trades, adding 5 new players to the roster including 2 rookies and young center Mason Plumlee. In a press conference last night, General Manager Neil Olshey emphasized that he believes these moves were a success and that more transactions are imminent once free agency begins. Despite Olshey's confidence, the trajectory of the franchise remains unclear. Draft day deals have raised more questions than answers among observers.

The uncertain direction of the franchise and chaotic nature of the last 48 hours were reflected in mixed reviews of Portland's draft-night performance from national pundits. A sampling of the reviews:

USA Today: C-

Pat Connaughton (No. 41) is a legit sleeper in this draft based on his casual rise at Notre Dame and the fact that everyone thought he'd be playing professional baseball for the Orioles. But considering the Blazers shipped away the No. 23 pick (Hollis Jefferson) in a big trade, it's hard to bask in Connaughton being the prized rookie.

Bleacher Report: B

In acquiring Mason Plumlee from the Nets, the Blazers were also able to acquire Connaughton, who was the talk of the NBA combine.

His 44" max vertical and sweet shooting stroke were enough to put him on NBA radars.

Assuming his jumper will carry over, Connaughton has a chance to find a roster spot as a three-point NBA specialist.


The Blazers traded for Diez, a shooter with excellent size for a wing. He had a breakout year in the Spanish ACB, where he played big minutes at 22 years old.

Sports Illustrated: B+

The Portland Trail Blazers selected small forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the No. 23 pick and later traded his rights to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-player deal, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

The Blazers sent Jefferson and Steve Blake to Brooklyn in a package that netted Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton, who was chosen with the Nets' No. 41 pick at Thursday's NBA draft.

Mannix's analysis: The Blazers—which traded away Nicolas Batum and have Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo set to hit free agency—have minutes at the swing positions available. Hollis-Jefferson is an elite defender; he has great length and quickness and a 7-foot wingspan. Like Justin Anderson, Hollis-Jefferson will have to work on polishing his offensive game. One-dimensional wing defenders are rare—Tony Allen is probably the best of the bunch. But if Hollis-Jefferson can add layers to his game with some kind of perimeter skills, he could stick in Portland's rotation.

Sporting News: D

The Trail Blazeres appear to be heading for a rebuild now that Nicolas Batum is no longer on the team and LaMarcus Aldridge reportedly is heading elsewhere. Sadly for them, they didn't do themselves any favors in the draft.

Trading Rondae Hollis-Jefferson - a steal at No. 23 - and Steve Blake for Connaughton and Mason Plumlee gives the Blazers young legs. Bother are hyper-athletic players, but they don't raise the ceiling much because neither is particularly skilled.

The Blazers may want to go all-in on Meyers Leonard and Noah Vonleh at this point.

Dime Mag: B

How are the Blazers rebounding from the supposedly imminent departure of LaMarcus Aldridge. By plugging and playing with Plumlee, of course!

Seriously, this deal is a good one for Portland. Plumlee flashed some nuanced scoring ability before falling out of favor with the Nets last season, and still projects as a plus defender, too. Locked into a bargain contract for the next two seasons before hitting restricted free agency, he could be eventually become one of the league’s better bargains.


Connaughton, meanwhile, will surely be a fan favorite for the Blazers – just like he was in the NCAA Tournament. The high-motor Notre Dame guard is a jack of all trades but a master of none, normally a death-knell for players with his on-court physical profile. Considering he tested off the charts at the pre-draft combine, though, perhaps Connaughton’s athleticism will translate to the floor in the more wide open NBA game.

Yahoo Sports: B

The Trail Blazers selected Rondae Hollis-Jefferson before moving him on to Brooklyn, as apparently none of the players present midway through the 20s seemed all that appealing even to what could be a rebuilding Portland squad. Vonleh and Henderson are good pickups that could be asked to leave the premises next summer if they don’t sparkle in 2015-16, and Notre Dame’s Connaughton is a killer shooter with hops and size that might have to make a tough decision between playing pro basketball or baseball based upon Portland’s second-round offer. Diez, a slasher from Spain, is a stash pick.

HoopsHabit: B+

The Shimmy Shake is Northwest bound. Portland is heading towards a blowup with trading away Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge likely gone, so it looks like the Blazers are looking to add defense. They started with bringing in Gerald Henderson from Charlotte and now with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

RHJ isn’t a great offensive player, but he’s a Draymond Green-like defender. He can guard just about any position on the court. He’s a versatile player with great value at this position. The offense can come, but you have to be able to stop guys from scoring to win and with Portland changing things up, RHJ is a great get for the Blazers, even if it does mean their frontcourt will remain non-existent for now.

CBS Sports: C

They need high upside and RHJ has that, but he's raw to the point of being scary and may not be able to play for several years. We still don't know enough about how he will develop to fully evaluate this pick. Reportedly headed to Brooklyn in a draft-night trade.

ESPN Insider Chad Ford: B-

The Blazers got a lottery pick when they traded Nic Batum to the Hornets for last year's No. 9 pick, Noah Vonleh. Then they traded the No. 23 pick (Hollis-Jefferson) for Mason Plumlee. While I love Hollis-Jefferson, I understand the deal. With Robin Lopez and Aldridge both likely leaving, they needed help up front. As for Connaughton, I'm a fan. He's athletic, he can shoot it and he's very tough. But he isn't an NBA starter, but he could be a valuable role player off the bench.

ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton: A-

Plumlee has been one of the most productive players from the 2013 draft so far, ranking second in wins above replacement player {WARP) behind Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. At 25, Plumlee is unlikely to grow much beyond his current level, but that's enough to make him an adequate starting center. He knows his role, which is to finish off the pick-and-roll and hit the offensive glass while providing energy on defense -- similar to what Lopez did the past two seasons.

For the remaining two years of his rookie contract, Plumlee is also one of the league's better values. He'll make just $1.4 million this year and $2.3 million in 2016-17. This trade saves the Blazers $1.9 million, adding to their cap space this summer.

Connaughton will compete for playing time at wing while coming off the bench,


At this point in the draft, teams are looking for any kind of long-term potential, and Diez's ability to contribute in the Spanish ACB at age 21 - he averaged 12.1 poitns and 6.8 rebounds per game for Gipuzkoa - suggests he might be able to play in the NBA. According to ESPN's international analys Fran Fraschilla, Diez wants to do as much. "He would swim across the Atlantic to play in the NBA," Franschilla said. Thumbs Up

SB Nation: B

The Blazers could lose LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, which could free up minutes for young players. Enter Hollis-Jefferson, one of the draft's premier defenders. He has excellent lateral quickness and length, and plays with heart. He is an extremely poor shooter, but is a solid ball handler and his interior passing ability makes him somewhat unique for his size.