In 2006, Kevin Pritchard waltzed into the NCAA clearinghouse and danced right back out with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. This was done more with smoke and mirrors than with actual assets. Roy was eventually named ROY and Aldridge showed signs of becoming one of the more dominant power forwards in the NBA. The league scratched it's collective head. Minnesota and Chicago scratched a little deeper than most.
In 2007, Portland had almost no chance of landing one of the two coveted players, Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. Things fell into place for Pritchard...almost as if he willed it so, and Portland took Greg Oden with the first pick. Rudy Fernandez was acquired from Phoenix for cash. The NBA shuddered.
2008 was the year that Brandon Rush turned into Jerryd Bayless, the anointed point guard of the future in Portland, if you are to believe the reports. Portland loves this guy, and while his jump shot reminds fans of a T-Rex swatting at a passing mosquito, his athleticism and drive are unquestioned. He was projected to be a top 4-5 pick by many, but somehow Pritch got him using a #13 pick. Oh yeah, Portland also got some guy named Nicolas Batum from Houston, but how good can a 19 year kid from France be?
So, here's the million dollar question. This year, Portland has 5 picks to work with, potentially up to about 10 million in cap space, and 3 to 4 players who are rumored to be expendable. What do you do if you are Kevin Pritchard?
The first thing you need to know about Pritchard is the same thing every other NBA GM is now well aware of. If he says "go left" he really means "go right". If he says "We like the way he looked in his work out", it really means, "He looked pretty good, we have absolutely no interest in acquiring his services, and we already know who we want". When Kevin says, "We want to move up in the draft", it really means "we are looking at a veteran to come in here and provide some experienced leadership".
Then again, Kevin knows that the rest of the league is now on to his poker routine. If someone points out that their source indicates that Portland wants to move up in the draft, is it because Pritchard knows that they expect him to go after a veteran? Or is it because he knows that they know that - and really wants that #3 pick so he can acquire Stephen Curry? Good gosh man! Who knows what's going on in that mind of his?
Beyond the guesswork, I feel confident of two things. First, I know that Kevin Pritchard is outworking most other GMs in the NBA. While some prefer to bask in the sun on a sandy beach this time of year, KP is taking calls, making calls, plotting charts, debriefing scouts and crafting his attack. The second thing I know is that he has already made up his mind to go after a high quality point guard (Stephen Curry or Ty Lawson) by moving Sergio, Outlaw and 2-second round picks AND moving up in the first round to acquire Hansbrough to step in and back up LaMarcus.
I'm absolutely confident that this is the plan...well, assuming that he doesn't reverse course. I'm basing my information on his methodologies of recent history. Of course, now that he has most of those pieces in place, I suppose he could be really trying to...nah, I'm sure I was right. It's getting it done in the draft once again. Actually, that free agent Kidd would make a nice tutor for Bayless, woudn't he? But now I think about it, he does have a knack for making that certain trade...that's it. He'll use the 25th pick, but trade him for...nah, that isn't it.
All right...I don't have a clue what Pritch will do. Neither do you, and neither does anyone else except for Kevin, Nate, a few other individuals of the social privilege won by virtue of belonging to the inner circle and that fly on the wall.
My pity on the poor GMs who fall to the Pritch once again this year.