NBA Draft 2012: Top 6 Rookies Who Could Help LaMarcus Aldridge
Although Aldridge has fared well statistically regardless of his supporting cast, the team itself hasn't.
The Blazers finished 28-38 in the lockout-shortened season and missed the playoffs for the first time in three years.
With so many pending free agents on the roster, Aldridge needs help if the Blazers expect to compete in the Western Conference in the foreseeable future.
Armed with two of the first 11 picks in the draft, new GM Neil Olshey is primed to rebound from the selections of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, who were ridiculously plagued by injuries.
Here are six rookie prospects who would help Aldridge and provide the healthy change the Blazers franchise desperately needs.
Let's face it: the Blazers need a center very badly.
The 5 isn't Aldridge's natural position, but he would slide over with the departure of free agents Joel Pryzbilla and Hasheem Thabeet.
ESPN draft expert Chad Ford projects that Drummond will be selected by the Blazers with the No. 6 pick. That is the conclusion reached by NBAdraft.net's latest mock.
This makes sense, not least of all because Drummond would be a huge upgrade over any personnel that graced the floor last season.
Drummond and Aldridge would form arguably the most athletic frontcourt in the NBA, and Drummond's huge 7'6" wingspan will create serious problems for anyone entering the paint.
The scary thing is Drummond is a legitimate seven-footer and already weighs 280 pounds. That type of NBA-ready body at age 18 is almost unheard of.
As talented as projected No. 1 pick Anthony Davis is, he doesn't possess the size that Drummond does. Drummond may have the most upside of anyone in the draft.
With Aldridge serving as a valuable mentor, Drummond should blossom in a positive, encouraging environment. Aldridge will be more comfortable at the 4.
It would be ironic for the Blazers to let Thabeet walk, then have another UConn player in Drummond fill in the same position where Thabeet seemed destined to be a perennial NBA star.
Small forward is a definite position of concern for the Blazers as well. The problem is they would have to move up in the draft to get a formidable small forward if Nicolas Batum leaves in free agency.
If the Blazers do move up, the front office should take a hard look at Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Kentucky super freshman is projected to go in the top five in every mock draft I've seen, and he would bring a winning mentality and tenacity to the franchise that it would hugely benefit from.
Kidd-Gilchrist was the emotional leader on this past year's college hoops national champion and is a highly skilled all-around player. He would ultimately be an upgrade over Batum, who is also capable of doing a little bit of everything on the court.
If the Blazers have the ammo to get Kidd-Gilchrist without forfeiting the No. 11 pick, they should definitely consider the possibility.
Having Batum as the first man off the bench would make for a great rotation for head coach Kaleb Canales.
The young interim head coach is the favorite for the permanent gig but could use all the stability and familiarity he can have.
The University of Illinois center is rising rapidly in mock drafts, and if the Blazers don't go after Andre Drummond, this is the second-best player at the position.
Leonard doesn't possess the thickness Drummond has, but not many prospects do. Leonard already has a decent NBA body.
With only one year of college experience, Leonard is obviously still raw but has a lot of room for improvement.
One positive is that his defense is already exceptional in the post.
A tape of Leonard from high school showcases his fluid, incredible athleticism and ball-handling skills for a player his size. He had one of the most ridiculous coast-to-coast dunks in high school that I've ever seen.
If for some reason the Blazers don't grab Drummond, they should look into Leonard at No. 11, or even No. 6.
Center should be the top priority for this squad, and there are two fantastic lottery talents in this draft.
Jamal Crawford has another week and a half or so to take up his player option but might be a trade chip on draft night.
With that said, it's likely Crawford will check out the free-agency market even if he isn't traded, which means the Blazers need instant offense in an explosive shooting guard.
Wesley Mathews was also disappointing after signing a lucrative contract before last season. He's better relegated to coming off the bench.
Enter University of Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb. He has the best offensive explosiveness and projects as the best NBA shooting guard aside from Florida's Bradley Beal.
Lamb can get hot from the three-point line and should only improve his consistency with a good work ethic as a pro.
What is unique is Lamb's length, as he also brings a perimeter defensive presence that the team simply didn't have last season.
If the Blazers can pair Lamb with Huskies teammate Andre Drummond, there would be chemistry between those two highly talented prospects already.
This would give the team an advantage in developing these players from the start and may not force all plays to run through Aldridge.
The Blazers could key in on another UNC point guard with Raymond Felton being an unrestricted free agent and largely disappointing.
Marshall is the best pass-first point guard prospect in the draft. He brings a high basketball IQ to the table immediately and is a player who makes his teammates better.
In the 2011-12 season, Marshall posted a spectacular 3.48 assist-to-turnover ratio.
If Marshall and Aldridge got the chance to play pick-and-roll—along with multiple sure shooters on the outside—the offensive attack would become very dangerous.
The knocks on Marshall are that he's not athletic enough and doesn't have a very good jump shot.
However, his shooting vastly improved from his freshman to sophomore year, and he won't have to carry a huge scoring load, as he will be more of a facilitator and distributor.
The intangibles and leadership that Marshall possesses can carry over from playing for one of the premier college basketball programs in the country.
The addition of Marshall will take pressure off team captain Aldridge, who is more laid back while Marshall is a vocal leader and sure-fire floor general.
A third Husky could help the Blazers immensely in Ross.
A first-team All Pac-12 shooting guard with exceptional range, Ross would bring an immediate offensive spark.
Like Jeremy Lamb, Ross has tremendous length, but he also averaged an abnormally high 6.4 rebounds per game for Washington this past season.
This is also surprising considering his slim frame at 6'7", 195 lbs. As a young player, he has room to fill out and is strong with the basketball already judging from those rebounding numbers.
One aspect about Ross that NBAdraft.net's scouting report states is an unusual amount of confidence. This is vital for someone about to be drafted high and step onto basketball's biggest stage.
The Blazers would benefit from Ross's stellar all-around game, on-the ball defense and swagger the team doesn't seem to have coming off a down season.
Ross would step into the Blazers' rotation, make an immediate impact and provide a lot of energy. Ross would limit the burden on Aldridge and provide a second legitimate scoring threat for the defense to account for.