There is plenty to talk about regarding the poorly-time firing of Kevin Pritchard, but for now let’s discuss how the Blazers did in the draft. After all, it always comes down to the guys who get on the court.
Pick No. 16 — Luke Babbitt, 6’9″ SF, Nevada:
Babbitt, along with Ryan Gomes, was acquired in a deal for Martell Webster and, as sad as it is to see Martell Webster go, Babbitt will probably be better than him, at least offensively, very, very soon. While he isn’t a fantastic athlete and will have trouble guarding faster players, Babbitt is very skilled with the ball in his hands. He can play the high post and out on the wing, can hit a variety of different jumpers and can put the ball on the floor. He isn’t a playmaker, though, so don’t expect to mold him into a point forward or anything. Considering Babbitt isn’t great at playing off-ball, running off screens and such — the Blazers have Rudy for that still — he’s effectively the offensive player that Webster wasn’t.
He could struggle in the pros to get his shot off, but he’s not going to be asked to create as much of his own offense as he was at Nevada, which should allow him to pick his spots with greater effectiveness. Of course, the same could also have once been said about Josh McRoberts, who himself was considered a first rounder for a time before falling to the second round.
Numbers-wise, Babbitt had a low turnover rate (13.9) while collecting 19.6 of available defensive rebounds, shooting 41.6 from deep with a 61.4 true-shooting percentage (anything over 60 is gold) with an offensive rating of 119.8. So yes, the offensive numbers check out fine.
The Blazers lose a little defensively with Babbitt playing the three, but you probably make up for that with the lineup and roster flexibility Babbitt offers. Add in the fact that you get Ryan Gomes, a player of value himself, and this trade is a win all around. While Gomes is a good rebounder for his position, his contract is the best asset in that it is not fully guaranteed if he’s waived by June 30. Gomes is due to make $4.3 million next season, but if waived that number drops to $1 million, giving that team $3.3 million in savings. It’s been reported that the Miami Heat, who are trying to shed salary for free agency, were looking to trade Michael Beasley for Gomes’s contract. Gomes can’t be traded in a package deal for two months though, but he can always be traded by himself in addition to a separate trade.
Of course, drafting Babbitt also violates Blogger Law by taking someone who was once shut down by a team blogger, but that’s another story entirely. (More after the jump)
Pick No. 22 — Elliot Williams, 6’4″, Memphis:
Apparently one of Pritchard’s final moves was a cloak and dagger operation to keep Williams from rising up draft boards, according to Chad Ford. We have no problem with that, as Williams was a common sleeper for many analysts and probably would have been a higher pick had he spent another year in school.
Williams is sort of the Pritchard Special in that he’s an elite athlete who can do a number of things very well on both sides of the ball. He’s an inconsistent shooter, but he has the scoring gene, and his defense is probably good enough to make up for what you lost with Webster. There’s also some debate as to whether Williams can play the point, but we don’t think a full-time ballhandling role is in his future.
Williams is excellent value at where he was taken, but right now you can slot him at third on the depth chart at shooting guard, as he’s probably not a good enough shooter, yet, to play with Bayless, nor is he a good enough playmaker to play with Rudy. But he’s going to excite fans when they see him — we can already see people calling for more playing time if the Blazers don’t make any more deals — and could eventually be a rotation player.
Pick No. 34 — Armon Johnson, 6’4″, Nevada:
Johnson is a strong, slashing combo guard with a knack for finishing in the lane and getting to the free-throw line — a skill that tends to translate well from college and the reason we had Dominique Jones slotted to the Blazers for so long. He’s also not a great passer, isn’t a great three-point shooter and . . . OK, he’s Jerryd Bayless.
As with Williams, Johnson is a good selection on pure value and someone who is a good enough athlete with the right skillset to succeed in the NBA. But, even losing Webster, that’s still a number of guys who all do similar things at the same positions. That said, Johnson offers solid depth and with a second-round contract is very cheap insurance shoulder the Blazers make another move this summer.
Final Thoughts: The running theme throughout Pritchard’s run as general manager has been finding value — still the best way to approach the draft — and 2010 wasn’t any different. We came into the night thinking the Blazers would make a medium-level deal by using Rudy Fernandez to move up into the mid-teens, and they did that, using Webster instead but without sacrificing the No. 22 pick. It was an excellent draft deal, an excellent player deal and an excellent asset deal.
But so were the other picks: they are great value and great assets, but how do they all fit together with the current roster? They probably don’t. Gomes’ contract is certainly trade bait, but so too could be either of the other guards, along with a couple expiring contracts, Rudy and Bayless. Certainly, depending on how you feel about the backup four spot, the Blazers have a rotation, but once again we’re back to feeling like consolidation is necessary, just like when they had three capable points guards and three capable small forwards.
For the moment, we can’t judge how things will come together. We can judge the players that are now Trail Blazers, and, with a slight knock for being a strange mix of talent put together, it was an A- of a draft.
As for the 2005 Draft, well, the No. 3 pick that could have been Chris Paul became the No. 16 pick in 2010 and Ryan Gomes. Even so, as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to go sit on my deck and take a moment to reflect on both the man and the player that is Martell Webster, and be just a little bit sad that he’s gone.