The 2011 NBA Draft is today, and if you’ve been paying attention at all, which I’m sure you have since there’s been very little else to talk about, there have been plenty of rumors. Notes on workouts, potential trades, movers talking about making moves, and everything in between.
Recently some rumors have surfaced that involve the Blazers. One such rumor includes a potential deal, or potential deals, that has Portland making an effort to bring in a new point guard. With a pretty deep pick, number 21, the Blazers would have to make a serious move up the draft order to claim one of the few point guards available in a remarkably shallow draft. The other option for adding a point guard at this juncture would be a trade.
The two names that have come up repeatedly in these rumors have been Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum. For the record, I don’t endorse any move that sends a piece like Nicolas Batum away with the hopes of getting a project in return, and I’m also not super hot on a trade that involves Andre Miller.
Nicolas Batum would be the guy the Blazers could ship in order to climb up the draft board. His place in Portland’s roster is somewhat up in the air considering the addition of Gerald Wallace; most lottery teams would die to have a player with Nic’s tools and upsides, and for the immediate future Nic’s value is greater than his cost. That doesn’t mean the Blazers should look to move him. Yes, in a few seasons Portland will have to pony up to keep their budding French superstar, but who knows what the new CBA will look like, or what the shape of the league will be following the all but inevitable work stoppage. In a very real sense, Nicolas Batum is far more valuable to Portland in a Blazer jersey than as the cherry on top of some mega draft-day deal.
A trade involving Dre is something of a different beast that a trade that would include Nic. Andre would be more desirable to a team looking to clear cap space, and could potentially bring a more seasoned point guard to Portland than your average run-of-the-mill lottery pick. Those are both good things, seeing as more than a few teams are looking to cut salary in the immediate future. The Blazers might be able to pull a deal that could see Ander Miller, a veteran getting close to the end of his career, for a guy like Devin Harris, a youngish veteran with some mileage left in his legs.
Of course I do have some huge issues with an Andre Miller trade. My biggest issue: I think Andre is still the guy to run this team. Yes, he can’t shoot the three ball, and because of that he doesn’t stretch the floor on offense. But Dre has established himself as one of this team’s leaders, both on the court and in the locker room. Conventional wisdom would say that that specific kind of intangible might be hard to find—a bird in the hand etc.
Beyond the problems that could arise from swapping Andre for a less traveled PG, or an equally traveled point guard that can bomb from deep–Steve Nash wink wink nudge nudge–the Blazers could be in real trouble if Andre goes and Portland doesn’t get a point guard in return. Right now the Blazers have two third-stringers at the one spot and nobody queued up to take over the starting role. Moving Andre Miller, and hoping that Patty Mills, Armon Johnson, or Brandon Roy will step up could put Portland in a tight spot.
So those are my arguments against the Blazers making a move on draft day. But there is something else that needs to be addressed should Portland actually follow through on some of these rumors and make an attempt at an up-and-coming point guard. And that is this: Portland’s search for the point guard of the future is not unlike the quest for the Holy Grail undertaken by the Knights of the Round Table. It’s gallant and noble, makes for a great story, and is ultimately doomed to fail.
The Blazers have a history of laying eggs in the draft, and that history is no more evident then when it comes to drafting players that play the point guard. Since 2000, the Blazers have drafted five point guards. Two of those five were bounced from the league in less than three years, and two are the aforementioned bench guys Patty Mills and Armon Johnson.
Erick Barkley, 2000 out of St. John’s, was taken by Portland with 28th pick, and was out of the league two seasons later. Taurean Green, a member of the same University of Florida teams that featured Al Horford, Joakim Noah, and David Lee, was taken by the Blazers in 2007 with the 52nd pick overall. Green was traded twice in his first season, then waived, and currently plays his professional ball in the Canary Islands.
And we can’t forget the most notorious point guard selection made by the Blazers. In 2004 Portland selected high school superstar and New York City legend Sebastian Telfair with the 13th pick of the first round. At the time of Bassy’s selection, Jameer Nelson, Delonte West, and Beno Udrih were still on the board. In 2005, the Blazers traded the third overall pick, which turned into Deron Williams, to move down to get Martell Webster, This trade meant Portlandy could have been the home for either Williams or the next guy selected, one Chris Paul. The choice to move down and pass on two future All-Star point guards was undoubtedly made because the Blazers had their man in Telfair.
Where is this point guard of the future? Telfair got shipped after two less than amazing seasons in Portland, played a season in Boston that included a robbery and a handgun incident, jumped to Minnesota where he floundered through 07-08 and 08-09 in which the T-Wolves recorded a combined 46 wins, then nearly disappeared in 09-10 appearing in a combined 43 games for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers, before ending up back in Minnesota for 2010-11. In his most recent NBA stop, Portland’s once next-in-line point guard started only eight games, playing a grand total of 711 minutes, for a team that collected all of 17 wins.
If you want to find a point guard drafted by the Blazers that had an actual impact on the franchise, you’d have to go all the way back to 1985. In that year, Portland used the 24th pick to select a point guard from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. That point guard was Terry Porter.
The real question is: what will Portland do tonight? If I were the GM, I would play it safe. In a weak draft, it’s unlikely an established team like the Blazers can get much better. They can, however, get worse if they make a big-time trade in an attempt to move up and grab one of the three top-flight guards that will go early.
Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, and Brandon Knight will all be decent to great pros, but it’s unlikely that Portland will be able to get their hands on one of those guys without selling the farm. It might be nice to get one those three guys in a Blazer jersey, but for my money it’s just not worth it.
If we’ve learned anything this off-season, it’s that Portland’s top brass might not have all their ducks in a row. With an interim GM, and an owner interested in calling the shots, there is always a possibility that the Blazers will catch the trading bug and try to make some sort of blockbuster deal. Hopefully, Paul Allen and Chad Buchanan will have enough sense to not leverage the present for some long shot bet on the future.