Lillard may be one of Portland's best draft picks ever.
There’s been a lot of chatter surrounding the 2013 NBA draft picks that the Portland Trail Blazers snatched up on June 27. Guards C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe, in particular, have garnered a good deal of attention.
Instead of looking towards the future, why don’t we take a second and reflect on the past. Who has Portland gotten in the past from the NBA draft? Are they successes? Failures? Where are they now?
Let’s examine the first-round draft picks of the Portland Trail Blazers for the last five seasons, looking at their progress and, in some cases, setbacks that have characterized their careers.
Lillard was a huge asset last season.
Who can forget Damian Lillard, the point guard who rose to the occasion for the Trail Blazers during the 2012-13 season. He averaged 19.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 38.6 minutes per game, earning himself the lead point guard position. Lillard even picked up the NBA Rookie of the Year prize for his excellent contributions.
The Trail Blazers selected Lillard during the 2012 NBA Draft at the No. 6 spot. The point guard hails from Weber State University.
Needless to say, Portland will be bringing its star point guard back for another season. Lillard will make $3.2 million for the 2013-14 season and is signed on to play three more seasons after next year. Hopefully, Lillard will be a great role model and educator for incoming rookie guards C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe.
Leonard will return next season to Portland.
Lillard isn’t the only player who Portland selected in the first round of last year’s draft, though. The Blazers also picked up Meyers Leonard at the No. 11 spot. Leonard is a center who stands over seven feet tall. He played for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign before coming to Portland.
Last season, the center averaged 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game. Not too shabby for a newcomer. He also played well during the summer league games in Vegas. Over five games, Leonard averaged 11.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and 2.2 turnovers. In one particular game, he impressed by scoring 15 points and getting 13 rebounds.
Leonard will return to the Blazers this coming season and will make $2.2 million. Like Lillard, Leonard is signed on for four more seasons.
Portland selected Duke point guard Nolan Smith at the No. 21 spot during the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft. Last season with the Trail Blazers, Smith averaged an unimpressive 2.8 points, 0.7 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 7.2 minutes per game.
The Trail Blazers did not resign Smith at this season’s end, and instead the point guard was invited by the Boston Celtics to play in the summer league. Unfortunately, Smith endured a leg injury at the start of the tournament.
However, he is expected to attend the Celtics training camp come fall. Perhaps the Celtics will offer Smith more playing time, which will allow him to flourish on the NBA court.
Portland snatched up 24-year-old Elliot Williams three years ago at the No. 22 spot during the first round of the draft. He came from the University of Memphis, where he played at the guard position.
Williams’s averages for the 2011-2012 season with Portland are disappointing: 3.7 points, 0.8 rebounds and 0.3 assists in 6.2 minutes of game play. As Joe Freeman of the Oregonian said via Twitter recently, “Based on conversations I’ve had with #Blazers decision makers, I do not expect the team to resign Elliot Williams next season.”
Most likely, his Achilles injury was the end to his career with the Portland Trail Blazers. Hopefully Williams will fully recover and find a spot with another squad in the NBA.
Claver will return to Portland next season.
In 2009, the Trail Blazers picked up Spain’s Victor Claver at the No. 22 spot in the draft. The small forward has contributed decently to the Blazers; last season, he averaged 3.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 16.6 minutes per game.
Claver is signed on to play for Portland for three more seasons. He will make $1.3 million for his play next year. As was the case with Lillard and Leonard, the Trail Blazers obviously see enough value in Claver’s talent as a small forward to invest in him for a few more seasons.
Finally, there’s Brandon Rush, the shooting guard who Portland picked at the No. 13 spot of the 2008 NBA Draft. Rush played for the University of Kansas before being drafted by the Trail Blazers.
Rush spent his 2012-13 season with the Golden State Warriors, however he endured a brutal knee injury that ultimately ended his season very early. Rush tore his ACL in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies only about a month into the season. He averaged 7.0 points, 0.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 12.5 minutes for the start of 2012.