The 2008 NBA Draft will go down in history as one of the best. Beasley, Rose, Bayless, Augustine, Mayo, Lopez and Gordon. I stopped the list short, but it could go on for awhile. In some mock drafts, players like Kevin Love, Hasheem Thabeet, Roy Hibbert and even Augustine are falling outside of the top 20...consistently. So what does this mean for the association? It means that good teams in the middle of the first round will be picking up good players. In case you were wondering, the Blazers fit the bill.
The 2008 Draft is decision time for Portland. Who do we cut? Who should we evaluate further? How are we going to set up the core of our team? The list of questions is long. Luckily, the Blazers have the pieces in place to have a big draft and an even bigger future. Kevin Pritchard has shown in the past that he is a draft genius, and if he can work his magic this time around, a dynasty will be in place.
Before discussing what the Blazers should do in the draft, certain questions must be presented and answered:
- Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster? Having two young SF’s on this team is inefficient. Both are potential stars and neither can realistically change positions on this team. So, the obvious answer is to trade one of them to fill other needs (i.e. PG, SF...trust me). The Blazers need to decide which of these players fits into the model dynasty they are building. You can get my opinion in a separate article. The point is, one of these guys has to go, and you might as well trade him in a year with a deep draft. Management has had long enough to evaluate these players and must decide which is the best fit.
- What is James Jones' place on this team? A veteran SF is needed on this team, which is odd considering we have one. I've always loved James Jones and could never figure out why Phoenix didn't use him more effectively. Now, I am starting to see why. This year like others in his career, Jones missed a substantial amount of time due to injury. This really hurt his ability to perform later on which allowed me to ask the question above. The biggest concern for the blazers is Mr. Jones' contract. He can opt out this summer, which many expect him to do. He can get more money and playing time outside of Portland. For that reason alone, the blazers should plan like he has no place on this team and act accordingly.
- Can Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack or Sergio Rodriguez be the PG of the future? No.
Now to the actual draft. As far as I can tell, there are only four things the Blazers can do in this year’s draft:
1. Stay where you are in the first round, draft the best available PG and then use your three early 2nd rounders on potential
2. Package your first rounder with a future pick, some of your second rounders, current players, or a combination of the three in order to move up and get the PG you feel can lead a dynasty.
3. Stay where you are in the first round and draft the best available SF. Then package some combination of future picks, current players and 2nd rounders to get another lottery pick. Use that pick to draft your wanted PG.
4. Trade away your 1st rounder for players to a team that is re-building.
Of these options the obvious cons are as follows:
1. It’s fine if the blazers wait for a PG since this draft is PG heavy and would be sure to land a player with some potential. The problem with not doing anything is that you keep Webster, Outlaw, and your army of complementary players. Eventually, some combination of these guys is going to get traded or god-forbid be let go into free agency. Why not do that now, in a year with a loaded draft? It makes sense to set-in-stone the majority of your dynasty as early as possible.
2. The team would get the PG it wants to lead the dynasty, but would lose picks and players that it could use on another 1st rounder.
3. A young team gets younger. While this option may hurt you during the next couple years, it could be the decision that creates an actual dynasty in the long run.
4. This is an interesting option with a ton of possibilites. The biggest con I see here is missing out on the players you could get with option #3 who have enormous upside.
Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s do some day-dreaming. Let’s say the Blazers choose option three. The ping-pong balls go as planned and we end up with the 13th pick. Nicolas Batum falls to us and we pick him. Don’t think this is possible? NBAdraft.net has him going at 17! So, then we decide that Webster is the SF we want to keep. Let’s package Outlaw, Jack, LaFrentz and a 2nd round pick for something around 10. You’re saying this isn’t possible? While I’m not an expert on trade values regarding draft picks, I do know that this trade would make sense for a lot of teams. Look at Charlotte, Chicago, New Jersey, Indiana, and Sacramento, the teams with picks 8-12. Travis Outlaw is basically like a guy coming out of college as a senior, a lot like Brandon Roy did. He’s 23, is long, athletic and coachable. The amount he has improved even in the last year is amazing. He is the type of guy who could push a team like Orlando over the top since he could come in right away and contribute. My point is, teams would be willing to move down in the draft by 20 picks (remember we have two high 2nd rounders) if they could get Outlaw. Then, with the pick, take Westbrook, who I absolutely love. Just like that, our roster is starting to look gorgeous. Take a look:
PG: Russell Westbrook (Pick #1), Blake, Rodriguez
SG: Roy, Fernandez, Pick #3
SF: Webster, Nicolas Batum (#2)
PF: Aldridge, Frye, Pick #4, McRoberts
C: Oden, Pryzbilla
Of course, this might not be the option the Blazers management chooses. Alot is to be determined. What I feel will happen for sure is the trade of Outlaw for a lottery pick or veteran player(s). And, since James Jones will be leaving most likely, this creates a need at SF. Whether this is done through the draft or free agency is anyone's guess. One way or another, the Blazers will go into next season with a franchise PG and a new SF who the team feels can really contribute. This will be done via draft, trade, or some combination of the two. The options are limitless.
The draft holds so many possibilities that if you think about it for too long, you’ll probably feel like you did after eating paint chips. Hopefully, KP and the Blazer staff will make the necessary decisions to build a dynasty-type roster. The team has too much potential to settle for being very good. If things go the right way, this team could be the BEST for a very long time.
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