The 2021 NBA Draft is less than a month away and the Trail Blazers’ potential involvement in the process is far from determined. For the second time in Blazers President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey’s tenure with the team, Portland will enter draft night without a pick in either round. Due to the large salaries at the top of the Blazers’ payroll, Olshey could look to get back into the action in order to add an affordable player to the end of Portland’s bench.
With that in mind, this year’s draft coverage at Blazer’s Edge will revolve around the idea that Portland has a decent shot of getting back into the second round.
The Blazers have a 50-50 record of jumping back into the draft under Olshey. In 2014, the Blazers remained on the sidelines. In 2016, in the lingering aftermath of the Arron Afflalo trade, Olshey put together a modest trade package to pry the No. 47 pick away from the Magic in order to select Jake Layman.
Beyond those two examples, the Blazers have a consistent track record of positioning themselves for additional second-round selections. In 2013, Portland packaged two future second-round picks for the rights to Allen Crabbe. Two years later, the Blazers shipped Steve Blake and the rights to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to Brooklyn for Mason Plumlee and the No. 41 pick. Olshey went on to select Pat Connaughton at that slot. In 2018, the Blazers returned to a similar avenue and traded two future second-round picks for the rights to Gary Trent Jr.
When it comes to first-round selections, the Blazers’ early-offseason and draft-day acquisition record is basically non-existent under Olshey. The Blazers consolidated two picks in order to move up for Zach Collins in 2017. The additional picks for that moved were acquired via in-season deals.
With or without picks, NBA teams put in countless hours of work prior to draft night. Blazer’s Edge spoke with a former Eastern Conference front office person about the obstacles pick-less teams encounter. They explained that, “You have to be prepared for any scenario because there are so many moving pieces draft week.”
The second issue touched on scheduling workouts. “Honestly, the only thing that’s different is it’s harder to get good players to your facility to workout,” the former front office person said. “Agents aren’t crazy about sending their guys to teams with no picks.”
Blazer’s Edge touched base with a current NBA agent for another perspective on scheduling workouts with teams that lack picks. “I have heard of that, but only on rare occasions.” The agent went on to explain, “If you got a top 15 guy, maybe you’re not going to waste your time to work out with one of those teams. Sometimes the team is using [it] for leverage to make other teams think they’re going to trade into the draft when they really have no earnest intent to do so.”
Prospect Pool & Format
This year’s profiles will feature players commonly ranked between No. 40 and No. 75 on current big boards. Again, the assumption is that the Blazers have a greater-than-zero chance of trading into the second round with Olshey at the helm. Since picks in that range are typically tied to upside and price, we are not filtering out specific positions from our coverage.
Our 2021 profiles will follow the same outline as last year, for the most part. Each profile will include:
- Player vitals (height, weight, etc)
- Player stats (this will include per 36 when applicable)
- Prospect strengths
- Prospect weaknesses
- Overview of the previous season
- Overall assessment
- Fit with the Blazers
What you will not see: direct player comparisons. You might see us define a prospect by using existing archetypes (3-and-D wing, shoot-first point guard, etc) or one aspect of that player’s game compared to an existing player, but you will not see our profiles feature straight-across comparisons to current players. Those comparisons are often tired and racially problematic in certain instances.
Our individual prospect profiles are set to roll out in the near future. If there is a prospect that you are eager to see, please let us know in the comments.