The Portland Trail Blazers have the Nos. 6 and 11 overall picks in this year's draft. Lottery picks are supposedly guys who can come in a make a big impact on the team.
These players are drafted with high expectations, and are expected to be building blocks for the teams that draft them.
That being said, the Blazers have two lottery picks in this year's draft. The future of the franchise will change forever based on the decisions made during today's draft.
The Blazers have a real chance to restructure the entire core of their team, and set themselves up in a position to improve substantially in the long term.
While the Blazers aren't yet a playoff caliber team, they are just a few pieces away from becoming a legitimate threat in the West. A couple years from now, once these two picks have a chance to develop, the Blazers could be a dangerous team, especially if they make the right selections.
Taking a look at the current roster, they need two things: a point guard and a center. They have quality starters and depth 2-4, but considering the inevitable departure of Raymond Felton and the likely retirement of Joel Przybilla, the Blazers could really use help at either spot.
The way the talent is positioned around their picks is interesting, and would point to a specific strategy to fulfill both of their positional needs.
At point guard, it seems like Damian Lillard is a guy they could get their hands on at No. 6 without reaching too much, but there aren't really point guards that would be worth taking at No. 11 considering the high likelihood of Lillard going in the top-10.
At center, on the other hand, there are a few prospects they could consider at No. 6, namely Andre Drummond, but there are plenty of names they could choose from at No. 11. Tyler Zeller and Meyers Leonard will probably both be available, both of whom are viable options at center.
In fact, in Chad Ford's latest mock draft, he has them employing this exact strategy to get both Lillard and Zeller and fill both positional needs. While this looks great on paper, I believe it could set the Blazers back very significantly in regards to their long-term progress.
Sure, the Blazers are filling their two greatest needs and rounding out their team nicely, but they're also possibly making the biggest mistake a team can make in the draft: Favoring positional needs over talent.
We see it every year, teams reaching for players that shouldn't be taken yet to fill a positional need. Damian Lillard is apparently higher on the team's big board according to the mock draft, and it's only fair to assume Lillard is boosted by the fact that he's the only lottery-worthy point guard.
Not only am I very down on Lilliard (read why here), but I'm high on Drummond. If he is available when they draft at No. 6, they have to take him. There's simply too much upside to ignore, especially outside the top-5.
The sky is the limit for Drummond, and he's in an entirely different tier than Lillard. Drummond is arguably the most physically superior center to come into the league since Dwight Howard, and he could be an absolute animal.
Drummond played on a dysfunctional UConn team this season that couldn't get him the ball or set him up with easy baskets. He rebounded and blocked shots at a solid rate, and has slimmed down considerably since the end of the season.
Scouts are scared because of his lack of production in college and questionable passion for the game, but he has all the makings of a superstar in the NBA, something that just can't be said about Lillard no matter how much you like him.
The Blazers probably won't be able to get a point guard with the No. 11 pick, but there are other way to fulfill that need. They can trade down for multiple picks; perhaps the Rockets would be interested, furthermore, maybe they could try to get Kyle Lowry. They could also draft the best player available at No. 11 and try to sign a point guard.
In any case, if there is one thing the Blazers must avoid in today's draft, it's passing on a potential superstar for a player at the position they need.
If Drummond works hard and becomes the player everyone knows he can be, the Blazers could literally have the best frontcourt in the NBA.
At that point, no one cares who they got with their other pick, and they are a competitive team for at least the next six or seven years. Who knows, at that point they may be one piece away from being a title contender.
If Drummond is gone, then fine, go ahead with the Lillard pick, but if the Blazers pass on him, they had better understand the consequences.
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