Blazers 2009 NBA Draft Re-Thoughts

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Alright, let’s unravel this odd, kinda-good, very strange 2009 Draft from the Portland perspective. Here’s the final tally of Blazers picks:

No. 22 (from Dallas): Victor Claver
No. 31 (from Sacramento): Jeff Pendergraph – A pick we called here and here.
No. 33: Dante Cunningham
No. 55: Patrick Mills

As the night got started, there was a sect of Blazers fans that probably wanted to trade up for Ricky Rubio or Stephen Curry. When Rubio startlingly dropped to Minnesota at No. 5, that was the time to strike, but Kevin Pritchard wisely chose not to pay a high price for a young player that was far from a sure thing. I’m guessing they thought it just wasn’t worth it for a team that is trying to get better now, not draw out their window for contention.

But the major Blazers drama came when Ty Lawson, Darren Collison and especially Dejuan Blair started to drop to the area of the No. 22 pick. Then Lawson was picked, followed by Collison. That was fine by me, as I really didn’t want to pay guaranteed first-round money to a point-guard that probably wasn’t going to play much — at least not soon. None of the available guards were going to make an immediate impact, it just seemed like they would because, well, players get overrated just before the draft every year.

The story was Blair, the rebounding stalwart who was falling after reports about his ACL surgeries in high school surfaced. First he was trickling down the draft board, then outright falling, and then he landed right in Portland’s lap at No. 22. David Stern to the podium: “The Portland Trail Blazers select….Victor Claver.”

Say what?

I’ll admit, even I, after saying all month that Portland should trade the pick and take some quiet second rounders, freaked out for about 90 seconds. I was irked and I had to take a walk. Then I realized that with Blair’s knees, teams probably didn’t want to give him guaranteed money either, so they were waiting until the second round to take a shot. And as the tumble turned into a fall turned into a freefall, it became more and more clear that something was really wrong with Blair’s knees.

As for Claver, of course I haven’t seen him in person. The things I read are nice, as are the highlights, but there’s no indication he can produce now. Kevin Pritchard said after the draft that the team is willing to wait to bring him over, but I have to agree with others that this was most likely a trade chip, perhaps to be sent to Chicago in that rumored Hinrich deal, who knows?

So then we get to 31. I’m torn; Pendergraph is the guy we had pegged as the perfect value play all along, but there was Blair. I wrote on the Blazers.com blog, covering all my bases, that Blair was my pick, but if he wasn’t chosen at this no risk spot, then clearly something was very wrong and I’d be happy with Pendergraph. It worked out just like that.

Here’s the details again on why we like him so much, but here’s the rundown: Pendergraph can run, he can jump, he’s a good rebounder, has a nose for the ball, is happy playing a role, has a decent shot, can run the pick-and-roll, and most importantly, he’s going to come cheap. Perfectly happy with this pick and I’m excited to see Pendergraph in person in Vegas.

Then, two picks later, Blair is there again. Have to take the risk sometime, right? Nope, here comes Cunningham. I have no problem with Cunningham as a player and he’ll be good competition for Pendergraph in Summer League, but here’s where I really think they should’ve taken a shot at Blair. I’m not going to hold a grudge against KP for this, but it’s just beyond me why they didn’t, especially when they already had their guy in Pendergraph. Again, something must really be wrong with Blair’s knees. It’s just too bad Blair went to the perfect team in San Antonio…

Everyone thought that was pretty much it until, for some crazy reason, Austrailian guard Patrick Mills dropped to No. 55. Perfect way to cap off the night, and an easy call to make beforehand. We had Mills going No. 27 in our mock draft, as he’s one of the fastest guards in the draft, and even if he never plays for us, that’s incredible value that late in the draft to stash overseas — maybe they’ll have him build some trade value in Summer League.

And that was i….oh wait, we got rid of Sergio Rodriguez. Dumping Sergio — who I literally couldn’t care less about for this team’s future, though I was surprised how low his stock had fallen — saves Portland $1.8 million next year, which means Portland has another $1.8 million in cap room this July. Awesome.

So that was it. It was a quiet day that was only made a little worse by other teams making significant moves for veteran players. Portland’s time will come in July, trust me. For now, they picked up two valuable trade assets in cheap, international players, two competitive players that can compete and potentially contribute as backup power forwards, and gained more cap room by dumping the contract of a player who no longer had a place on this team. If that’s not a successful draft for a team that isn’t looking to add youth and projects, I don’t know what is. I know most people want that splash, that Pritchslap, and they want it now, but be patient. The Blazers made all the right moves Thursday night, even if I think they should’ve taken a shot at Blair, and have given themselves more assets to makes moves when they intended to make them in the first place — July.

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