Being a Portland based website with its founders being alumni of the University of Oregon and growing up inherent fans of the Portland Trailblazers, it's no secret where our loyalties lie. We always strive to present completely unbiased material, but every now and then, we like to focus in on a piece that pertains to our interests. In this case, it’s whom we think that the Trail Blazers franchise should take with that 21st pick, assuming they keep it.
There are a number of issues surrounding the organization right now that could impact this pick, such as what to do with Brandon Roy, if they keep or deal Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, give Greg Oden another chance or who they choose to be the next GM. We built this list assuming they are looking for value at 21 to help this roster next year, with the obvious hole being at point guard of the future and immediate help in the post.
We generated a list of the top 10 prospects, based on our accumulated Draft knowledge of the 2011 prospects we have seen play first hand and extensively researched though out the past year, that we think would be "best fits" for the uprising team and who will likely be available where that selection currently resides. This Draft is more promising at the forward position in the first round, and you can find a decent point guard in the second round at 51, but there are some nice point guards worth a look at 21.
Keep in mind this is theoretical, Blazer fans, as recent Portland draft history tends to favor some shake-ups and moves happening on Draft day, and 21 may not be where we end up picking. If they do keep the pick and expect to get a real player out of it, this is who we project as the best picks and why.
That said, SwishScout.com presents “The Top Draft Prospects For The Blazers With The 21st Pick.”
Note: On every player, you can click their name or country to take you to a more detailed profile for an extensive scouting report and highlights on the respective prospect.
Howard "Trey" Thompkins had a solid career at Georgia during his three-year tenure and a nice 26 point, 11 rebound showing against Washington. He’s a physical rebounder in the paint who can board up with his length and use of his NBA power forward prototypical body. Not a great athlete and more of a "face up" forward who can spread the floor, but lacks refinement on his back to basket game. However, he helps the size issue for the Blazers and gives them some size in the paint. He’s kind of a poor man’s LaMarcus Aldridge, but he’s a solid option at 21 if no one ahead on this list is available.
The last thing that a team looking to win now really needs is a project player, but the size and length of the Brazilian ‘Bebé’ is tempting at this spot. Needs time for his body to mature and is a couple years away from being a serious contributor and consistent rotation player, but he is a natural rebounder and shot blocker. If they are looking to get rid of Oden or Camby, Lucas is a solid fill in for the future, but they will have to be patient for him to develop, and that's really not what they need to get wins right now.
While definitely more of a guard and not a pure distributor, Smith stepped his game up and became a stud at Duke. He is a pure playmaker who understands the game will and should be and is a great pro in the mold of Kirk Hinrich or Toney Douglas. The Blazers need guys who can penetrate and create off the dribble, and Smith gives them that an option. One of the more undervalued players in the draft who absolutely has a pro skill set but gets cast aside because of limited upside and little quirks in his game that can be ironed out (shooting, turnovers). An experienced player who has shown great year-to-year development, and it makes sense for him to get a look here from a franchise that could use offensive playmakers if they don’t like anyone better.
While only 6’9”, Williams is a big body that gives a solid rebounding presence in the form of a poor man’s Kevin Love. Not an above the rim athlete or offensively refined post player currently, but he’s a solid, young developing post player who probably overachieved in the ACC. Nonetheless, a persistent player with a great motor and will bring great energy in the middle of the floor. The Blazers could badly use some size, but if they decide he’s the best available for what he brings to the table with talent and upside, then Jordan should serve the franchise well alongside Aldridge down the road, easing the need for an interior rebounder.
There’s no question that Faried is the quintessential rebounder and pure hustle player in this Draft, and if he falls to 21, then could easily a steal. He’s another undersized player that has little offensive game or shooting ability, but makes up for it his crazy strength, athleticism, motor, rebounding and defense. Not sold on him as a starter down the road, but will easily make a living on what he does well. Brings a lot of grit, toughness and hustle to a team's interior, and that would be much appreciated for a team that lacks it.
While once seen as the top player in the 2010 prep class, Tyler took the unconventional route to play overseas and paid the price in draft stock. He’s a player who has been largely questioned regarding potential character issues, but all signs in the last month from the draft combine point toward a much more mature and hardworking young man.
Jeremy already has one of the silkiest jumpers extending out to 15 feet for a post player available. He’s a unique talent in terms of size, length, athleticism, potential, post game and skill that could translate into being an absolute stud and steal in this draft. Think about getting a player with the potential of DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors late in the first round of this "weak" draft, and that’s what you have in Tyler this year. Perhaps a "high risk, high reward" talent by consensus, but I am very high on his talent and a believer in him being a legit starter in the league at center.
Who would be better to groom a point guard that could be the next "Andre Miller" than Andre Miller? Morris is a 6’5” point guard with outstanding court vision, passing ability, ball handling, quickness and loves to back down smaller guards. Lacks great range or consistency on his jumper, but does a great job of incorporating his teammates and making them better. He was one of the NCAA’s top assist men his sophomore year, and while he may never be an elite NBA point guard, he’s a player with the skill set and potential more than capable of eventually leading a team. While still developing, he’s a nice talent likely to be available around the 21st pick and gives the Blazers a potential floor general with a mentor in Miller who already has mastered the style of point guard play that Morris naturally possesses.
Easily one of the most underrated players in this draft, Johnson is a unique blend of size, length, athleticism, defensive instincts and fundamental post play. He is an immediate contributor that makes the Blazers better in the paint with his size, skill set and respectable jumper. He’s a nice back up at the power forward to LA and could be used as a solid compliment to Aldridge when he’s on the floor. There are some concerns with him having a smaller shoulder base and being able to put on weight to anchor his body in the paint, but he is a skilled player who can do well in the league with what he has. Nonetheless, the 2011 Big Ten Player of the Year is a sleeper who should be available at 21 and will be better than most think in the NBA.
A beneficiary of the NBA Draft combine, Vucevic surprised many with his 7’0” size (with shoes), 7’5” wingspan and 9’5” standing reach. Clearly a guy with great size, but really didn’t get enough credit nationally for what he did on the court and an ailing USC program. Nikola is a big body with incredible shooting touch, a budding post game, tremendous rebounding ability, shot changing ability and a solid basketball IQ.
While he’s not a great athlete, he’s a skilled player with an exceptional skill set for a post player and gives tremendous size to anchor the Portland interior. He can contribute on both ends of the court and help take the pressure off of Aldridge in the paint, as Vucevic’s range has to be respected. Doesn’t do a ton to impress you, but he’s a solid player that does all the little things well and gets the job done like an NBA center should. In a seemingly weak draft, Vucevic is a gem in my mind and should get serious consideration if available at this spot.
Perhaps the only guy I like more in this draft than the rest to be a sleeper, Reggie reminds me of a much more refined Jrue Holiday than when he came into the league a couple years back. At 6’3”, 210 lbs., he has a great build for an NBA point guard and a freak seven-foot wingspan that allows him to finish at the rim and pick off passes. He’s an excellent athlete who can defend the perimeter with his length and lateral quickness, and Jackson could thrive under Nate McMillan as a more defensively oriented point guard. He’s a player who has worked hard on his game, turning himself into an excellent shooter (42 percent from three this season) and gives the Blazers that consistent perimeter threat at the point.
While considered a developing point guard, Reggie has done a solid job running the position and a team, averaging 4.5 assists the past couple seasons at BC. He’s a player with a lot of upside and would make a great fit for a team that appears to not want or need a ball dominant point guard. He will have his fair share of growing pains in the NBA (shot selection, filling out his body, still ‘shoot first mostly’), but he’s a player who gets how to play and can learn how to play the position well.
While we are generally a little higher than him on everyone else, there’s a good chance he doesn’t make it to 21. He didn’t show out for the combine (due to injury), giving the impression and speculations to the ESPN analysts during the combine that a team may have given him a "guarantee" at a certain spot if he falls to them and his camp may have decided to "shut it down" for workouts. Not a huge deal if the Blazers don’t get him, but a potential draft coup if they can at 21 in terms of value, fit and long term payoff.