The Portland Trail Blazers will spend this off-season looking to fix one of the biggest blunders in recent trade history:
Trading PG Andre Miller to the Denver Nuggets for PG Raymond Felton on Draft Day.
At first, the trade seemed genius.
Felton was an up-tempo, deep-threat guard who was known for pushing the pace and making plays in transition—everything that Miller wasn’t. And putting him alongside his old Charlotte Bobcat teammate, Gerald Wallace, only looked like icing on the cake.
But unfortunately for us Blazers fans, he was anything but his old self.
Felton was in worse shape than a fried chicken diet, yet publicly denied that his conditioning had anything to do with his wallowing play. He was putting up career-lows all across the board and finished the season averaging 11.3 points (career-worst), 6.5 assists (second worst since rookie year), and 1.3 steals (tied for second career-worst), as well as shooting a paltry 40.7 percent from the field and an even worse, 30.5 percent from three.
For crying out loud, his overall rating on NBA 2k12 dropped down to a 70! (Disregard their controversial rating system just this one time.)
But to make matters worse, he pointed all the blame elsewhere.
It was never Raymond Felton’s fault that Raymond Felton’s game wasn’t where it should’ve been. It was either coach Nate McMillan’s lack of confidence (let’s face it, who could keep faith in a guy who can’t knock down open jumpers?) or some other locker room story that he used to deflected the blame.
The good news? His contract’s up.
With one of their possible two picks in this year’s draft, the Blazers will (hopefully) look to address their gaping hole at the PG position.
Without a bonafide general manager in place, Portland made a draft day blunder (thus far) in selecting Nolan Smith over Kenneth Faried, who they claimed years ago they would draft. This time around, the Blazers cannot afford to be so blind.
They’ve got one lottery pick that looks like it’ll be No. 11, with the possibility of landing the Brooklyn Nets’ lottery pick as well, which could range anywhere between No. 6 and No. 9.
Enter Kendall Marshall.
The Blazers hosted pre-draft workouts featuring UNC center, Tyler Zeller, and Illinois big man, Meyers Leonard, but if they just so happen to land the Nets top-three protected draft pick; their draft pool could change significantly.
Marshall has striking similarities to once-revered Trail Blazer, Andre Miller. Neither are known for their shooting abilities, nor are they quick on their feet, but they both have an excellent feel for the game and are great set-up point guards.
The North Carolina point guard set the single-season ACC assist record in 2012, doling out 311 dimes to surpass Georgia Tech great, Craig Neal. Marshall finished the season averaging 9.7 assists per game, but had an NCAA Tournament run derailed by a wrist injury in the first round against Creighton.
Granted he’s fully healthy, this highly-touted pass-first PG would be a ridiculously perfect fit in Portland. And if they drafted his buddy, Harrison Barnes, along with him, that’d be even better.
Nic Batum and Wes Matthews are spot-up shooters/slashers. Ray Felton was the same. If you have a scorer running the show, especially one that’s not looking to set up his teammates, then it all breaks down. Factor in shoot-first, pass-never Jamal Crawford into the rotation, and you’ve got a team full of players who are all trying to get theirs.
Kendall Marshall would restore the order.
Like Rajon Rondo, Jason Kidd and Mark Jackson (to take it back), Marshall doesn’t look for his shot, but rather how he can set his teammates up. He’s one of the few rookies in this draft that will make an instant impact wherever he goes.
Speaking too highly of a rookie never seems to be a good idea, but it is almost written for this kid to have a monster, possibly Hall-of-Fame bound NBA career.
Running the show in Portland, Marshall would get the ball to LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, all while finding his shooters on the wing (Batum, Matthews, Luke Babbit, etc.) and, every now and again, getting his own.
In this scenario, the Blazers could get back to their old ways of a grind-it-out, half-court set offense.
Kendall Marshall answers a lot of questions for the Portland Trail Blazers. But will they draft him?
Now that’s a question that won’t be answered until June.
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