With just under a week until the draft, it’s time for Blazer fans to seriously think about the options at #24. And honestly this year the Blazers have what I like to call a ‘luxury’ draft. While this year’s Thursday Special still has its importance, it isn’t the kind of ‘make or break’ draft of the past few years. Portland has the luxury to do with this first-round pick what they please. By that I mean trading up, trading out, packaging it for a player, using it to stash a Euro, etc. We at the RCP assume that Portland is going to keep the pick, for discussion’s sake. For months after the off-season we’ve kind of beat around the bush as to who the Blazers should pick at #24. It was while conducting our Mock Draft last weekend, that Coup and myself came to one conclusion:
Now before I get into why the Blazers should draft Pendergraph at #24, one thing needs to be known. Getting Pendergraph at #24 would be great. But we here at the RCP believe the dream situation is us finding a way to trade that pick and stealing him at #33 for less guaranteed dough. But that’s just getting greedy.
What is the one need that the majority of Blazer fans will agree needs to be taken care of this off-season? The backup power forward spot. We’ve been talking about it nearly off-season for a reason. The need for a backup 4 is so pressing that Coup got loaded up on Rooty Tooty Fresh n Fruity’s and seriously thought about Brandan Wright possibly fitting in with the Blazers. Drafting Pendergraph not only fills this need but it also ensures that Coup will maintain his sanity. On the surface you look at Pendergraph and there is a lot to like. He’s a hard worker who can bang down low, rebound and has all the tools to fit in very well with this team. He’s also an intelligent, high character guy which we know is a plus for this organization and it’s supporters.
Here’s a quote from KP after Pendergraph’s workout on Wednesday:
“He shot the ball really well in the shooting drills. He’s going to be a good defender in our league.”
You look at those comments and they address the two ‘weaknesses’ of his game. People wonder if Pendergraph will be able to defend in the NBA and if he can shoot. This might not answer but here you have it. His ability to step out and shoot the mid-range jumper is underrated as is his length. He has a 7’1″ wingspan, is a legit 6’10” and has Andre the Giant sized hands. Also if KP says he’ll be able to defend and shoot, at this point you take the word.
Pendergraph is arguably the best fit, especially at #24. I like Pendergraph over Hansbrough for a number of reasons. One of them is the fact that at this point, if we want Hansbrough in Portland we’re going to have to move up to get him. Why move up to Hansbrough when we can just snag Pendergraph? What does Tyler do so much better to make him worth more? Pendergraph’s not that far off people. Check out this comparison of their statistics from last year:
- Hansbrough: 20.7 PPG, 8.1 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.2 STL, 0.4 BLK, 51.4% FG, 84% FT
- Pendergraph: 14.5 PPG, 8.2 REB, 0.9 AST, 0.5 STL, 0.9 BLK, 66 % FG, 77% FT
Like I said, not that far off at all. I imagine the first thing a lot of people are going to look at is the difference in PPG. That’s all good in well but consider this: North Carolina and Arizona State played at completely different paces. UNC was high-octane, ASU was octane-less. The Tar Heels averaged 89 points a game and the Sun Devils averaged 69. If you do the math they were both responsible for about 20% of their teams scoring. This doesn’t sway you? Take a look at their combine measurements and they are not that far off from each other. This brings me back to my point that while Hansbrough may fit just as well, why pay to get him when you can get Pendergraph?
Then there is the actual fit within the team. Working in his favor is the fact that Pendergraph doesn’t need to be a star and isn’t a diva. As evidenced by his college career he is capable of playing his role for the greater good of the team. Also in many ways he is opposite of Channing Frye. Many compare Frye and Pendergraph because they are both tall and kind of look the same. But make no mistake about it, Pendergraph would be quite the upgrade over Frye in the post. For one, Pendergraph knows how to post up and contains some post moves. He also actually runs a pick and roll with the ability to pick and pop. Frye apparently has yet to figure out the roll option. Imagine the possibilities of Bayless and Pendergraph running a pick and roll in the second unit. If Pendergraph could score off a pick and roll with Derek Glasser, I’m foaming at the mouth at what he can do with Bayless. Also consider Bayless’ love to penetrate will only make Pendergraph’s job on offense much easier.
He can fit in well with the second unit as he and Joel both have strong work ethics on the boards and defensively. He could bring an energy that Channing Frye could not. He can easily come in as an NBA-ready player and just do the dirty work. And he is versatile. As KP said after his workout, Pendergraph can run up and down the court which will be great for half-courts. But, after spending three years under Herb Sendek at Arizona State it is quite evident he can excel in a half-court/slow-paced offense. The kind Portland tends to excel at. Back to my point about him not being a diva. Think about his career at Arizona State. He went from being a star to playing behind James Harden without causing any problems. Another reason why Pendergraph fits is his pre-existing relationship with head coach Nate McMillan. They have known each other for a couple years due to Pendergraph playing with Nate’s son Jamelle at Arizona State. As we know by the issues with Sergio and Channing, Nate is big on trust. We know that Nate likes to have ‘his guys’ around and will give them the belief and trust and what not. Also, Jeff wants to come here. Don’t believe me? Here you go:
“In Portland, Pendergraph had an extended chat with coach Nate McMillan, whose son, Jamelle, is a junior point guard at ASU. Pendergraph said McMillan told him he thought he could have been utilized more offensively but that he was impressed Pendergraph never let the lack of touches affect the rest of his game.
“I can shoot the ball and handle it,” Pendergraph said. “I think I’ve surprised a lot of people. They’re like, ‘Dang, we didn’t know you could do all that.”‘
But in a perfect world, yeah, he has a preference. He’d love to be in Portland, on the West Coast, playing on and up-and-coming team and for a coach in McMillan he already knows well.
“I told him I want to be there,” Pendergraph said.”
And there you have it, the case for Jeff Pendergraph as the #24 pick. He is the best prospect available at that spot with numerous strengths that can only help this team. The more I think about it, the harder I find it to argue that if the Blazers keep this pick they should go with Pendergraph. He may not be a “superstar” but that is not what tis team needs. Portland needs a guy whose going to come in and play their role on this team. He fulfills a need, has a high IQ and great character and is ready to play in the NBA. Not to mention he wants to come here and the Blazer brass wants him as well.