The Portland Trail Blazers are approaching the most pivotal moment in recent history: the off-season that will make them or break them.
And in that off-season, the Blazers have two early lottery picks (No. 6 and No. 11) that they can use to help build a solid foundation for the foreseeable future.
All indications thus far have pointed out three possible (and plausible) options for the team with their first pick. If Connecticut center, Andre Drummond, is available, the Blazers will likely pick him up to finally fix the Greg Oden dilemma and have their enforcer of the future set in stone. If one of the previous five teams decide to snag Drummond , Portland is said to be very high on Damiam Lillard, the high-octane scorer out of Weber State. And at the off-chance that both of them are picked up in the first five picks, it’ll boil down to either the North Carolina wing, Harrison Barnes, or Florida’s perimeter nightmare, Bradley Beal.
But with a plethora of options at guard, forward or center, the Blazers are facing a host of real chances to add even more quality talent to the roster. Draft promise rumors have surfaced that either Portland, Toronto or Phoenix guaranteed Dion Waiters an early selection, and the team is said to be very high on Illinois’ center, Meyers Leonard, and all-time ACC assist leader, Kendall Marshall.
But after watching his post-workout interview, one-and-done Duke guard, Austin Rivers, became my favorite for Portland’s No. 11 draft pick.
Son of Boston Celtics’ coach and ex-NBA great, Doc Rivers, Austin averaged 15.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game from the Blue Devils, touting him one of the better perimeter scorers in the Draft. While he struggled from the line (.654 FT%) and has shown a lack of maturity and basketball IQ, Rivers exudes a confidence about himself that is exactly what the Portland Trail Blazers have lost in Brandon Roy’s retirement.
“I mean, people call me cocky, but I don’t know what it is. I just have a lot of confidence in myself, but in a good way. I’ve always tried to be a good spirit in the locker (room), I’ve always been a good teammate, I have good relationships with my friends. If you look at all of the great players in the game; Kobe, Kevin Durant and LeBron — if you don’t say they’re not cocky, they are cocky. You have to be cocky and you have to have an ego to be good. It’s a matter of having a healthy ego. You don’t want to be arrogant or feel like you’re entitled to stuff. That’s something I’m not. I just have a lot of confidence in myself, and I try to share that with my other players. And I just try to be a leader, and I think at the end of the day, you have to have an attitude that you can do anything. And that’s what I have.
For all of my devout Portland fans,
Doesn’t that sound like a player we absolutely need on our roster?
Without B-Roy as the heart and soul of the franchise, the Blazers are leader-less. It’s the reason they tanked last season to an abysmal 28-38 record, and it’s the reason Nate McMillan lost the locker room, and eventually lost his job. LaMarcus Aldridge — God Bless His Soul — can’t control the whole team. He’s a passive leader and lacked the voice and presence that Roy had.
Austin Rivers would fill that hole, both on and off-court, of being that much needed locker room presence, as well as an offensive horsepower. His ability to score anywhere on the court just wreaks of B-Roy, and his confidence and tendency to spread it to his players are things that the Blazers desperately need to get them back into the Playoff picture.
Rivers is a once-in-a-decade player.
It was Michael Jordan in ’84, Kobe Bean in ’96, and take your pick of either LeBron in ’03 or K.D. in ’07. Austin Rivers is that next player.
Granted, all the hype surrounds Kentucky superstar, Anthony Davis, projected to go No. 1 overall to the New Orleans Hornets, but he is surely not the only long-term talent in this year’s draft.
Rivers didn’t post the gaudy stats that Durant or Jordan did in college, but his boiling confidence is only something you see in the best of NBA prospects. It was the first note ESPN “Insider” John Hollinger listed, and the Blazers could greatly benefit from adding it to the team.
Newly-hired general manager, Neil Olshey, has an opportunity to add two high-caliber players to the team; the second of which must be Austin Rivers.
Kendall Marshall as a possible starting point guard isn’t a bad idea either, and Dion Waiters also shows promise of a superior starting two guard, but Rivers’ “over-confidence”, leadership, locker room presence and, of course, his superior scoring ability makes him a perfect fit for the Portland Trail Blazers.
I have finally seen why Olshey is so high on the one-year Blue Devil guard, and how important it is that they pick him up immediately.
Now it’s up to the Blazers, when they’re on the clock, to make the right move.
Kristian Winfield is a Staff Writer for Rip City Project and Lead Editor of FanSided’s Ohio State blog, ScarletandGame.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BriscoXCI.