Which draft prospects could help Aldridge and the Blazers get back to the playoffs?
After another crushing loss Tuesday night, this time at the hands of the Utah Jazz, the Portland Trail Blazers continue to see their playoff hopes dissipate. For a team that started the season looking like a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, the Blazers' fall to the outside of the playoff picture has been shocking.
As a result of the team's swoon, the front office made the transition into rebuilding mode official at the trade deadline by trading key contributors Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace. A key step in the rebuilding process for any team that wants to complete the transition back to the playoffs is the NBA draft.
With the possibility for two first-round picks, the Blazers' pick and the Nets' pick if it isn’t a top-three selection, the Blazers have the potential to expedite the rebuilding process this coming June.
This slideshow takes a look at six draft prospects the Blazers could target in their quest to return to the playoffs in the 2012-13 season.
Marshall could upgrade the Blazers PG position
With Raymond Felton’s struggles as the Blazers' point guard it would be very surprising to see him re-signed this offseason, meaning that the Blazers have a need at the PG position.
Although Nolan Smith was drafted in the first round last season, Portland will likely consider drafting another PG prospect in this year's draft due to Smith’s mostly uninspiring play thus far.
One potential target for them could be former Tar Heel star Kendall Marshall, who is a pure point guard that possesses outstanding court vision.
As a sophomore this past season, Marshall averaged 8.1 points per game and 9.8 assists per game en route to winning the Bob Cousy Award as the nation's top collegiate point guard.
Marshall is currently expected to be drafted in the late lottery portion of the draft.
If Wroten can harness his potential he could become a top PG
The Blazers, in their pursuit of a point guard, could also select former University of Washington PG Tony Wroten Jr.
Compared to Marshall, the former UW star is a riskier selection due to worries about his jump shot, his 16.1 three-point percentage and turnovers. Wroten averaged more turnovers than assists this past season.
Despite these worries, Wroten will be considered by point guard needy teams due to his immense potential, which stems from his ability to constantly get to the rim and finish. He will likely be selected in the late lottery to mid first-round range.
Lillard is another option for the Blazers at PG
Competing with Wroten and Marshall to become the top PG selected in this year's draft is Damian Lillard of Weber State. Despite playing for a relatively unknown school, Lillard has risen up draft boards on the strength of his potent scoring ability.
Blessed with outstanding quickness and a solid jump shot with deep range, Lillard led all of Division I basketball in scoring this past season by averaging 24.5 points per game.
The main concern with Lillard is whether he can transition from a scorer into a more traditional point guard that sets up the offense. Lillard currently looks to be a likely lottery selection.
Drummond could be the Blazers answer at center
In addition to the need for a PG the Blazers also have a need at the center position. While Joel Pryzbilla has done a solid job as the starting center since the Marcus Camby trade, the Blazers would be well-served to upgrade the position this offseason.
With only Hasheem Thabeet and power forwards Kurt Thomas and J.J. Hickson backing up Pryzbilla, the Blazers will need to go outside the organization in their pursuit of a quality center. The NBA draft will give the team the opportunity to do this, as there are multiple prospects that warrant consideration from the Blazers.
Connecticut’s Andre Drummond brings question marks regarding his effort but is the consensus top center prospect in this year's draft. Standing at 6’11”, 275 pounds, Drummond, when he asserts himself, is a force on both the offensive and defensive end.
Due to his considerable potential, Drummond profiles as a likely Top-Five selection.
Zeller is another center option for the Blazers
Another top center prospect in this year's draft is Tyler Zeller, who averaged a near double-double with 16.3 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game in his senior season at North Carolina.
Differing from other center prospects, Zeller is a more mobile big man that excels in getting up and down the court in the transition game. Complementing his transition game is Zeller's nice touch around the basket and a jump shot that extends past 15 feet.
Probably the most NBA-ready center prospect in the upcoming draft, Zeller could be selected in the late lottery.
Beal is a potent scorer
Even with Wesley Mathews, Elliot Williams and potentially Jamal Crawford returning to the Blazers next season, Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal has been mentioned as a potential target of the Blazers.
In his freshman campaign as a Gator, Beal averaged 14.8 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game in helping to lead the Gators on a surprise Elite Eight run.
Granted that the Blazers seem reasonably set at the 2-guard, Beal warrants consideration due to the complete scoring package that he displayed this past season.
As the top 2-guard in the draft, Beal is likely to be a Top-Five selection.