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Reaction to the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2017 NBA Draft Performance

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Portland came away with Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan. How’d they do?

NCAA Basketball: Utah Valley at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers began the 2017 NBA Draft with a trade to snag Gonzaga big man Zach Collins, finished it by picking up Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, and walked away claiming they gotten exactly the players they wanted and bolstered themselves for the future. How much do you buy into the picks and the explanation? How well did the night go for Portland? We asked these questions of our Blazer’s Edge staff members. Here are their reactions.

Well, the Blazers ended up with Zach Collins off of a two-for-one trade as well as Caleb Swanigan. How’d they do?

Steve Dewald (@SteveDHoops): I don’t really count Lauri Markkanen as a true center, so in my eyes, the Blazers came away with the best center in the draft. Due to his skin tone, several Portland fans are already comparing him to Meyers Leonard, but their games couldn’t be farther apart. Collins needs some polish when it comes to staying out of foul trouble, but he has the chance to be an impact player on both sides of the ball.

As far as Swanigan goes, he is a fairly safe selection for the late stages of the first round. His ceiling is relatively low, but if the Blazers can get some productive minutes from him as a reserve big man, I’m sure President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will be satisfied with his decision to roll the dice on the former Purdue bruiser.

Eric Griffith (@EricG_NBA): It looks like many people are disappointed at the Collins and Swanigan picks, but I’d argue that it’s best to take a wait and see approach. Neil Olshey has a solid draft history and, historically, literally hundreds of “sure things” have become massive disappointments. Meanwhile, future All-Stars like Kristaps Porzingis or Dan Majerle have been booed out of the building. It’s very possible that assessments have changed entirely by the time Collins and Swanigan have played a few games. If they both look like legitimate NBA players in 12 months then this is a huge win for Portland. Let’s wait at least that long to make final decisions.

David MacKay (@DavidMacKayNBA): Zach Collins is a talented player, but I’m not sure the difference between him and the players that were available at 15 and 20 is measurable enough to warrant bundling picks and moving up. That said, the Trail Blazers seemed pretty set on him from the get-go, so perhaps they have a specific vision for him that I don’t immediately share. Swanigan is a good story. I am eager to watch him develop. This doesn’t change that he was probably picked about 10 spots too high. Overall, I’m not thrilled. Maybe a year or two from now someone will hit me with a copy/paste of this paragraph so I can eat my words, but right now, there were other available draft avenues that I’d have preferred.

Perry Waggoner (@perrywaggoner): There was lots of movement in the first round, but Portland wins the Most Puzzling Move Award. With three picks in their pocket, could Olshey not convince the Kings to take 15 and 26? Giving up the team’s top two selections to move up just five spots seems like a mistake to me.

Neil Olshey was just on ESPN Radio. He said, among other things, “We drafted the best guys available who would help our roster long-term.” When asked if the draftees would contribute immediately he responded, “We’ve got a lot of depth. Our Top 9 is hard to crack. ” Reactions to those statements?

David: No they didn’t.

Eric: I’m confused. What does Olshey mean with “our top nine is hard to crack.” Who is the ninth player in this scenario? Big 3 plus, Aminu, Harkless, Crabbe, Turner, Vonleh and ...? That’s eight legitimate NBA rotation players and then marginal guys like Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard. Plus, rumor has it they’re trying to trade Turner! And we’re not even getting into Crabbe’s defensive deficiencies or Vonleh’s inconsistency. If ANYBODY walks into camp and wows the coaches there is absolutely room in the rotation. Heck, this offseason is a failure if the Blazers don’t upgrade a single rotation spot.

Steve: Apparently Olshey isn’t very bullish on Malik Monk’s upside. Leonard was openly trashed by Olshey at the end of the season, and adding two first-round post players certainly gives off the appearance that he is getting ready to replace someone in the rotation. Given Portland’s cumbersome salary situation, I would hope someone is getting switched out for a cap-friendly contract.

Perry: How “hard to crack” can a top-9 be when the players they have to compete with consist of Pat Connaughton and Tim Quarterman? That’s like trying to crack a nut open with a cotton ball.

Olshey also said the Blazers would be looking forward to July...that the draft was only the first step in remaking their roster. Can we tell anything about their future from tonight’s picks? Do Collins and Swanigan make current players look vulnerable?

Eric: The Blazers have 15 guys under contract before signing Collins and Swanigan to their guaranteed rookie deals. Festus Ezeli is clearly gone. That means Pat Connaughton and Tim Quarterman, the only two with non-guaranteed contracts, will likely be fighting over the final roster spot if nothing else changes.

If Leonard is still around in October he’s the most likely to lose his fringe rotation minutes. Ed Davis also may have a hard time working his way back into the lineup.

Perry: Both Collins and Swanigan should have the entire frontcourt of the Trail Blazers looking behind their shoulders. I’d imagine Ed Davis and Meyers Leonard are in the gym right now trying to get better. While Leonard’s contract is ugly, Davis could garner some interest from teams looking for size on the cheap.

Steve: Even after packaging picks to select Collins, the Blazers still have more bodies than roster spots heading into next season. Leonard should be on notice in the coming weeks, but I don’t think there is pressure to move Davis immediately. Waiting until the trade deadline to move Davis, like Mason Plumlee last year, would give the Blazers a chance to explore better offers without being rushed.

Perry: Agree to disagree, Steve.

David: Collins could become a respectable backup center—a role on the team that is more or less wide open—so I could see his presence making a few players more expendable. Don’t get me wrong, although the Trail Blazers didn’t draft the way I would have today, I do think Collins is solid. Whether or not he contributes in year one is yet to be seen. The same can be said for Swanigan, to an extent. Regardless, today’s moves don’t reveal anything that we didn’t already know. The Blazers wanted frontcourt depth. As for July, the Blazers’ hands are still pretty well tied, from a financial standpoint. It’s going to be a dull summer unless we see some trades. Maybe they can give the Sacramento Kings a call. I’m sure they would be eager to do business again.

To wrap up, give us your gut feeling after leaving this draft in five words or less. What taste is left in your mouth?

Steve: Still need to shed salary.

Eric: Give (the) new guys a chance.

Perry: You up, David Griffin?

David: I’m a Suns fan, anyway.

Thanks to Eric Griffith, Perry Waggoner, Steve DeWald, and David MacKay for sharing their thoughts. Stay tuned tonight and tomorrow as we continue looking at the draft and turn towards the free agency period to come!