Portland Trail Blazers' 2014 NBA Draft Primer

Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJune 23, 2014

Portland Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey, left, and new head coach Terry Stotts appear during an NBA basketball news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Nigel Duara)
Nigel Duara/Associated Press

As many NBA teams plan what to do with their respective picks, the Portland Trail Blazers will head into the 2014 NBA draft without one in either round.

That doesn't mean the Blazers can't be vigilant and active during one of the league's biggest annual events, however.

In 2011, Portland's first-round pick went to the Charlotte Hornets for Gerald Wallace, while the second-round pick was sent to the Denver Nuggets in a three-team trade that netted Raymond Felton for the Blazers at the time, according to Pro Sports Transactions.

As such, the Blazers will miss out on a guaranteed chance to reap the benefits of an extremely deep draft class.

They can, however, trade for a pick with their current players, but there isn't much to work with—unless Portland is willing to make a major move from their starting squad.

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

All-Star players LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard should be untouchable in that regard, with Nicolas Batum close behind.

That leaves guard Wesley Matthews and center Robin Lopez as the only contributors of value that could be moved. That said, neither are at a high enough level to entice a team out of a high first-round pick.

Lopez is expertly complementary in the paint, as his post offense and defense suit the team's style of play. The Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard may have had his way with Lopez in the playoffs, but the big man remains a talented contributor.

Quite a few players would struggle at defending Howard in a playoff series—especially considering the Blazers often played him without double-teaming or trapping on the block, instead letting Lopez do the dirty work with man-to-man defense.

That leaves the talented Matthews, who can be erratic offensively at times, as seen against the Rockets in the first round. His nine points in Game 2 and five points in Game 3 were quickly forgotten on the heels of back-to-back 20-point nights in Games 4 and 5.

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL  27: Wesley Matthews #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers pokes the ball away from James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets in the fourth quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Matthews proved a feisty defender and competitor in the series though, aiding Batum in keeping Houston's James Harden to 37.6 percent shooting. While some of his play can be head-scratching at times, Matthews is an important part of Portland's identity.

As such, he could be moved, but it isn't necessary at this stage.

The Blazers are looking to mature as a team after advancing past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1999-00. Moving a key rotation player would not only disrupt the team's improving chemistry, it would also diminish needed experience.

With guard Mo Williams opting out of his contract, per CSNNW.com's Chris Haynes, and Earl Watson possibly retiring, the Blazers will have zero players over 30 years old under contract for next season.

Portland is an up-and-coming team, to be sure, and adding veteran players should be their foremost focus during the offseason. The Blazers have been rumored to be looking to acquire a first-round pick, according to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy, but it should only be done if it's an opportune move.

If general manager Neil Olshey and his staff are presented with a chance to acquire a game-changing talent, Portland can delicately work on a deal.

If trading for a pick is forced and comes at the expense of the roster, it might not be in the team's best interests. The Blazers already have young talent on the bench in guard C.J. McCollum, forward Thomas Robinson and center Meyers Leonard.

All three have had varied troubles entering the league—McCollum missed a ton of time due to injury, Robinson was traded several times without getting comfortable and Leonard didn't receive the playing time he needed to build confidence.

I'd trust head coach Terry Stotts' judgement far more than my own on such matters, so don't mistake this analysis as scrutiny. Clearly, all three aren't to the standard of readiness Stotts wishes to see and require further development.

That's perfectly fine, but it makes little sense to seek a draft pick when undeveloped talent sits on the bench. On top of that, it would force inexperience into a rotation that is youthful to begin with.

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MAY 14: Nicolas Batum #88 and Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers leave the court after being defeated by the San Antonio Spurs 104-82 in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the AT&T
Chris Covatta/Getty Images

It's a tricky situation for the Blazers, but standing pat might be the best course of action for the draft. It's a shame Portland may not get in on the action, but the team has a spectacular core of young players already.

If a situation materializes in which the Blazers can make a deal, it should be warily considered. Portland needs to be careful not to make a rash move by buying into the hype surrounding the draft. The pool is deep and talented, but the Blazers don't necessarily need to be in the thick of it.

The team would essentially be swapping young talent for even younger talent, contradicting the progress it made in 2013-14. With such a deep draft, picks won't come cheap, which is all Portland can afford.

They could, however, trade a reserve player to pry a second-round pick from another team.

Forward Dorell Wright and center Joel Freeland are both eating up cap space, and moving them for a pick would have a two-way effect.

It would clear up the payroll slightly, making the signing of a veteran free agent much easier. It would also allow a younger talent to come in under the radar. Depending on which team Portland could nab a second-round pick from, it's possible the respective draftee could be an improvement on the current bench players.

Forward Victor Claver played just 21 games this season and averaged 8.8 minutes. Per The Oregonian's Joe Freeman, he stated, "I need to play. I don't know where," and that he is open to a trade if that's what it took.

He hasn't done much in his short career, and hence he'd need to be packaged with another player (e.g. Wright, Freeland or someone else). Wright and Freeland were terrific in the postseason, which makes moving them difficult. Teams like the Phoenix Suns—who have three first-round picks—or the Minnesota Timberwolves—with three second-round picks—could be suitable trade partners.

Or, if it's a case of either being shipped out for a veteran like Spencer Hawes, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter or Chris Kaman, it's a trade that needs to be considered.

Portland has 13 players under contract for 2014-15, excluding Williams' player option, so signing the aforementioned can be done without a trade. Adding any of those free agents—in addition to Williams—would provide the Blazers with a solid reserve squad with a balance of quickness, athleticism, veteran savvy and experienced know-how.

If the Blazers are hellbent on being active in the draft, trading an instrumental piece may be the only way.

That's only if Portland wishes to participate in the first round, in which case moving a solid reserve player for a second-round pick would be necessary.

It all comes down to the Blazers' organizational priorities.

If building on this season's progress is the focus, keeping out of the first round is the best path to follow. It would allow the team to keep its core together rather than breaking it up to get younger.

Portland could potentially do both, but it's a difficult situation.

The Blazers have few assets, and those they have are actively involved in the team's identity, so moving them for an unknown is all but unnecessary. Some could be considered expendable, in which case Portland could tentatively approach certain deals and look to improve.

In any case, the Blazers may go either way approaching the draft.

Either option could be beneficial going forward, both immediately and in the long run. Portland doesn't have the luxury of owning a pick in the draft, but that may be a blessing in disguise, depending on how you view it.