If you are reading this you already know that Portland currently has 3 1st round draft picks this year and you know the spots where the Blazers are picking. You've read the mock drafts and you have seen the speculation about whether Neil Oshey keeps 1, 2 or 3 picks. Would Portland package the picks to move up? Will they combine one or more with a player for cap relief? As discussions are had about moving or keeping the picks, the key factor is to have a sense of the type of player the Blazers will get if they use these crucial picks. It makes no sense to go 5 or 10 years back as the NBA landscape changes so much. What I will do is examine the last four NBA drafts to get a sense of the caliber of player fans can hope for with each of these selections.
It is easy to get hung up on the exact numbers. For purposes of this analysis, I will show the 3 player range around the picks (14-16, 19-21, and 25-27). If you have faith in Portland's GM, you can hope that Neil selects the best of the 3 players in a given range.
MOTIVATIONS AT EACH SPOT: These 3 spots are not just random numbers. Teams picking at 15, 20 and 26 are generally in very different positions in the pecking order.
#15: A team picking in this spot barely squeaked into the play-offs. Unlike a team picking early in the lottery, teams in this position often feel that one more piece could put them into contention.
#20: Teams picking in this range are in real crapshoot territory. They are a solid play-off team. They will not expect immediate help from this pick, but would like to add value to the roster.
#26: Portland received this pick from Cleveland. A team choosing this late is a top-five team. While they would like to add talent, this is the range where picks are made with the long-term in mind, not immediate help. This is a good place for a Euro stash, an injured player or a big who needs time to develop an NBA body.
With all this in mind, what has happened in the recent past with these picks? Note: In many cases I listed the team that the player was traded to, not the actual team making the pick.
2016: Is there immediate help out there?
#14: Denzel Valentine CHI
#15 Juan Hermagomez DEN
#16 Guerchon Vabusele BOS
#19 Malik Beasley DEN (Portland's pick)
#20 Caris Luvert IND
#21 DeAndre' Bembry ATL
#25 Brice Johnson LAC
#26 Furkan Kormaz PHI
#27 Pascal Slakam TOR
WOW! We KNOW this was a terrible year for rookies. But is there ONE name of these 9 that would get you excited for the Blazers? Even in their 2nd year? PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell us that the 2017 draft is WAY better than 2016. It has to be.
2015: How fast do they develop?
#14 Cameron Payne OKC
#15 Kelly Oubre Jr. WAS
#16 Terry Rozier BOS
#19 Jerian Grant WAS
#20 Delon Wright TOR
#21 Justin Anderson DAL
#25 Jarell Martin Mem
#26 Nikola Milutinov SA
#27 Larry Nance Jr. LAL
OK! Not any stars, but at least some players who play and contribute a little.
2014: Could you find a Nurkic at this level? Yes!
#14 TJ Warren Pho
#15 Adreian Payne Atl
#16 JUSUF NURKIC DEN
#19 Gary Harris DEN
#20 Bruno Caboulo TOR
#21 Mike McGeary OKC
#25 Clint Capela HOU
#26 PJ Hairston MIA
#27 Bogdan Bogdanovic PHO
3 Years In and their are some PLAYERS. Nurkic, Harris, Capela and even Bogdanovic. Just have to make the right choices.
2013: A Star at #15. Yes! CJ's draft
#14 Shabazz Mohaddad MIN
#15 Giannis Antetokounmpo MIL
#16 Lucas Noguiera ATL
#19 Sergey Karasov CLE
#20 Tony Snell CHI
#21 Gorgui Dieng MIN
#25 Reggie Bullock LAC
#26 Andre Roberson OKC
#27 Rudy Gobert UTA
FINALLY AN ALL NBA STAR (OR TWO) The Greek Freak right on the magic #15 spot. Rudy Gobert at #27.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Ideally the 2017 draft is as deep as projected. If you want immediate help next season Portland needs to either trade up or trade for an existing NBA player. Virtually none of these players from the last 4 years moved the needle in their first season. But when you have 3 or 4 years of data you can see that there are some prizes to be had. Besides Antetokounmpo, the big reveal is the centers that have been picked at these levels: Nurkic, Gobert, Capella, etc. Not much on the point guard front. Harris is becoming a gem for Denver. There WILL be some impact players out of the draft in this range. 3 shots at the dart board give you more chances for a bulls eye than just one. It is still my opinion that one or more of these picks will be moved to create a better roster rather then attempting to keep all three. In order to judge the value of any move, it is important to look at recent history to see what you may miss out on.
Many comments on B-Edge moan about how terrible it would be to trade any of these picks even to create cap space. History tells us this: AT LEAST ONE, VERY POSSIBLY TWO, AND MAYBE ALL THREE OF THESE PICKS MAY END UP BEING WORTHLESS IN THE LONG RUN. If you add in the question of how committed the Blazers are to develop a rookie next season and risk some playing time, and these picks have to be seen as pawns in the chess game of the NBA. While hope springs eternal, Portland fans also have to be realistic about what these draft choices are likely to be.