The Portland Trail Blazers were blessed to have been gifted two lottery picks in this year’s draft. But now, the actual work begins.
In order to bring Rip City back to Western Conference Playoff status, newly-hired GM Neil Olshey will be neck-deep in scouting work, looking to add the best two prospects to the fold.
Luckily for him, I’m here to help out.
This will be a quick overview of the Blazers’ possible draft prospects at both No. 6 and 11, and how each of them would, or would not fit into the mix.
Andre Drummond (C, Connecticut)
10.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.7 BLKPG
The general consensus around Blazerland, including most mock drafts across the nation, is that if he’s available at pick No. 6, Portland will take Andre Drummond. After the short-lived Greg Oden experiment failed, the Blazers were essentially center-less, stuck with aging big men Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas. Now that they’ve abandoned ship and gotten rid of Camby, it’s time to find an enforcer to patrol the inside.
He’s looked at by many scouts as a project, but Drummond’s potential is through the roof. With great size, length and defensive awareness, the Blazers could mold the UConn product into… well, Greg Oden 2.0.
Damian Lillard (G, Weber State)
24.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.5 STLPG
One of the more popular prospects for the Portland Trail Blazers, NBADraft.net has the Blazers picking up high-octane guard, Damian Lillard, with the sixth pick in the draft, but ESPN’s Chad Ford has him going to the Blazers at 11, with them also selecting Drummond at six.
Lillard was second in the nation in scoring, but swears up and down that he’s a play-making, passing guard as well. Providing a secondary scoring punch for LaMarcus Aldridge, Lillard could be the missing link for a dynamic front court/back court duo in Portland. And if they could teach him how to run the pick-and-roll as well, he could very well be the Blazers’ PG of the future.
Harrison Barnes (F, North Carolina)
17.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.1 STLPG
Barnes is projected by several mock drafts to go to the Cleveland Cavaliers OR the Sacamento Kings at No. 4 or 5 respectively. Both teams need an athletic wing to put alongside their play-making guards, and Harrison Barnes fits that bill perfectly.
But on the off chance that he makes it all the way down to pick No. 6 and the Blazers decide Lillard isn’t the guard they want going forward, Barnes would be the best talent remaining on the board (assuming Drummond is taken already). Portland simply couldn’t pass him. The thinking here would be to pair him up with his North Carolina counterpart, and pick up Kendall Marshall with the 11th pick.
Tyler Zeller (C, North Carolina)
16.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.5 BLKPG
Ex-interim GM, Chad Buchanan was pretty high on Tyler Zeller when he reviewed his pre-draft workout with the Blazers. He doesn’t quite fit the bill of an athletic, defense-oriented big that the Blazers need, but Zeller is an instant impact center who has range out to about 15-18 feet and a pretty reliable low-post arsenal. Pairing him with L.A. would make for a pretty potent offensive front-court, but would also leave a gaping hole on the interior, with neither of them being defensively savvy in their own right.
Kendall Marshall (PG, North Carolina)
8.1 PPG, 9.8 APG, 1.2 STLPG
And thus completes Portland’s trifecta of UNC prospects.
If the Blazers select Drummond at six, they’ll likely look to pick up Lillard at 11. But even with the good chance that another team (New Orleans Hornets with Pick No. 10) could snag him off the board, Kendall Marshall to the Portland Trail Blazers with the 11th pick is a very real scenario.
While he doesn’t provide much of the scoring punch that Lillard does, Marshal is an established play-maker and would be an instant impact guard coming out of the draft. His accolades speak for themselves; as the all-time ACC assist leader, Marshall led the nation with 351 assists—a number that could’ve been drastically higher had he not injured his wrist (and elbow) early in the NCAA Tournament.
Marshall would be the heir to Andre Miller as a bigger, stronger guard that isn’t known for scoring, but for setting up his teammates.
Jared Sullinger (F/C, Ohio State)
17.5 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.2 STLPG, 1.1 BLKPG
DraftExpress.com has the Blazers picking up Jared Sullinger at No. 6, but it doesn’t make much sense given their needs and personnel.
Sully’s very undersized to be playing the center position, but he makes up for it with his bruising strength and offensive skill-set. He’s not an interior defender in any right, but his array of offensive attacks (mid range to three point jumper and an elite low post game) make him a great addition to any front-court league-wide.
Almost a Zach Randolph-type big, Sullinger would be a great complement to an athletic, defensive-minded center—the very thing the Blazers don’t have. He’d be a better fit alongside Anthony Davis in New Orleans, or even next to Greg Monroe in Detroit.
Meyers Leonard (C, Illinois)
13.6 PPG, 8.2 PG, 1.9 BLKPG
In the event that Drummond is off the board at No. 6 and the Blazers absolutely wanted to pick up an athletic interior defender, Illinois’ Meyers Leonard would be the way to go.
The other big in the Blazers’ first pre-draft workouts, Buchanan labeled Leonard as a project, calling him a bit more raw offensively. But his athleticism, size and physical nature make Leonard a plausible option for the Blazers to explore. He likely won’t start over Joel Przybilla, nor will he get any real playing time in his rookie year, but with the right player development, he could become a decent big in the NBA.
Bradley Beal (G, Florida)
14.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 STLPG
The Blazers already have Wesley Matthews and Elliot Williams in their back court, so I’m not too sure where he’d fit into their scheme, but if they continue with their “best available talent” draft technique, Bradley Beal would be the way to go.
Arguably the best perimeter scorer in the draft, Beal can score from virtually anywhere on the court. His knock-down shooting ability has him pegged as sort-of a Ray Allen Jr., but his ability to handle the ball and run the point guard position also has him labeled as a tweener—exactly what the Blazers had in Jamal Crawford.
Beal’s an incredible prospect in this year’s draft, but his position in Portland would be hard to figure out. Beal’s not a pure PG, so it’s unlikely they take him unless both Drummond AND Lillard are gone at No. 6.
Perry Jones III (F, Baylor)
14.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 0.8 BLKPG, 0.6 STPLG
With Jamal Crawford opting out of the final year in his contract, the Blazers depth has gone kaput. And since they moved Gerald Wallace to acquire the Nets’ draft pick, Nic Batum will be starting instead of filling that sixth man role.
If they need a scorer off the bench to contribute immediately, Perry Jones III is their guy. Essentially a two in a three’s body (think Paul George), Jones has the ability to score from virtually anywhere on the court. If the Blazers stick to what they said about filling their key holes with already established NBA talent, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them pick up Jones with the 11th pick.
Portland’s got their work cut out for them heading into the draft, but the reward is more than worth the work. If they proceed cautiously yet aggressively, GM Neil Olshey could turn the fortune of this franchise around in a hurry.
If Andre Drummond is on the board at No. 6, it’s a no-brainer to replace Oden with the UConn product. Then, if they get lucky enough, Portland should fill out the team needs with Lillard or Marshall at No. 11.
Should Drummond get picked up before the Blazers get a chance, then Lillard is the no-brainer, while they pursue any other player at No. 11.
Either way, the best scenario for Portland in this year’s draft would be to address their hole at C with Drummond, and pick up their PG of the future at 11.
What do you think?