NBA Draft 2011: 10 Prospects the Portland Trail Blazers Should Avoid
This offseason, the Portland Trail Blazers find themselves right on the cusp of championship contention and with a few smart moves this summer they could end up in a very enviable situation.
With the 21st pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the Blazers may not find a franchise-changing player, but there are still plenty of guys who could really help the team...and plenty of guys who wouldn't.
Portland needs to address its point guard and center positions with the looming retirements of Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, and it could definitely use a solid backup power forward to give the overworked LaMarcus Aldridge some much-needed rest.
Without further ado, let's take a look at several players who wouldn't help Portland move into the top tier of the Western Conference.
No. 1: Marshon Brooks (Providence)
Brooks' draft stock has skyrocketed in the past weeks as the Providence graduate has gone from a mid-second-round pick to a late first-rounder. As the nation's second-leading scorer at 24.6 points a game, the Blazers could select Brooks due to his size, solid rebounding for a guard and his phenomenal scoring ability.
He wouldn't be a bad pick as much as he wouldn't really fill a need. The Blazers' search for a big man, point guard and a reserve power forward is really what they need to focus on this offseason instead of adding another scoring threat. Though Brooks is very gifted offensively, he has difficulty really making an impact with his facilitating or his defense.
Brooks spent last season really working with the ball in his hands, which could make the transition to playing largely without the ball difficult. While he is great at finding his own shot, he sometimes has difficulty getting his teammates involved and Portland needs a facilitator more than another scorer.
Brooks could develop into a dominant scorer down the road, but Portland shouldn't be swayed by his scoring prowess and should draft based more on need than on the pure ability of a player.
No. 2: Trey Thompkins (Georgia)
Georgia's Trey Thompkins was once projected as a late lottery pick, but concerns over his work ethic and conditioning have made a lot of teams hesitant to pick him, meaning he could very well still be available when Portland is selecting.
The Blazers could use a legitimate backup power forward and may like Thompkins' range and aggression on the boards. However, with a number of solid power forward options likely to be on the table when Portland is selecting, the team should avoid an underachiever like Thompkins, whose future in the NBA is quite uncertain.
He isn't particularly aggressive offensively in the low post and his limited athleticism would make him a tough match for a very athletic team like Portland that really needs to get out in the open court.
Thompkins could easily flounder at the professional level, and with several strong options still likely to be on the board at that point, the Blazers should make a safer pick and select an immediate contributor like Kenneth Faried.
No. 3: Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
It isn't that likely that the Jimmer will fall this low in the draft unless a major concern about him arises or his workouts are unimpressive, but there's always a chance that teams could pass on Fredette because they're unsure how his game will translate into the pros.
Surely Larry Miller is salivating at the thought of this year's College Basketball Player of the Year ending up in Portland, but should Jimmer still be on the board at No. 21, Portland should resist the urge to pick him and instead select a more NBA ready player. Portland needs a point guard for the future, but Jimmer's lack of athleticism makes him the wrong choice. Portland is an incredibly athletic team and it needs someone who can facilitate and make plays on the break.
Portland really needs an elite ball-handler to run the point and it's unclear that Fredette will be a true point guard at the NBA level; he'd probably better suited to play the 2-guard at the professional level despite being slightly undersized. Fredette's probably the most versatile scorer in this year's draft class, but Portland has several consistent scoring options, so if the Blazers decide to draft a point guard they need a playmaker, not a scorer.
Defensively, Jimmer could be a real liability against the league's quicker guards and, though his on-ball defense was passable at the college level, he could have some serious trouble keeping explosive point guards in front of him.
Obviously Jimmer's shooting would be an asset to any team, but his game simply has too many holes for him to come in and immediately contribute on a playoff team like the Blazers.
No. 4: Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA)
It isn't that Honeycutt would necessarily be a bad fit for the Blazers, but more that he wouldn't provide them with anything they don't already have from his position. Honeycutt is similar in many ways to Nicolas Batum when he first entered the league in 2008. Both players are long and athletic, possess solid range on their jumpers and could both stand to bulk up for defensive purposes.
The Blazers are a defense-oriented team and bringing in another guy who can really shut down an opposing wing would no doubt be attractive. They may be lured into taking Honeycutt due to his potential on both ends of the floor; however, bringing him in would steal minutes away from Batum and hinder his development. Batum has excellent chemistry with the rest of the Blazers and is a special, young player in this league.
Though Honeycutt's 2.1 blocked shots a game are impressive, the combination of Batum and Gerald Wallace make up for that with their excellent hands and defensive intensity. Batum and Wallace are one of the best defensive forward combinations in the league and disrupting the rotation with a very similar player could be detrimental to the team's dynamic.
Honeycutt is a versatile player who can shoot, pass well and defend competently, but he doesn't excel in a single area of his game. He isn't always the best decision maker and would be better off going to a team like the New Jersey Nets, who are rebuilding and can focus on taking his multifaceted game to the next level.
No. 5: Donatas Motiejunas (Benetton Treviso, Italy)
Motiejunas is one several European big men projected to go in the first round, but of them he is easily the riskiest selection. Unlike Enes Kanter and Jonas Valanciunas, who provide toughness and strong skills in the paint, or Jan Vesely who has the most offensive versatility of any seven-footer (well...6'11") in the draft, Motiejunas' role on an NBA team is far harder to predict.
Though he's a solid perimeter shooter and a major matchup problem, Motiejunas' lack of strength and defensive sensibilities are serious concerns for any team considering drafting him. His footwork and post moves can be impressive, but he also has a tendency to rely on outside shots, which won't necessarily translate well into the NBA.
Motiejunas has been projected as high as a late lottery pick put could very well fall to the Blazers, who don't need an Andrea Bargnani-type forward/center who isn't going to assert himself on the glass and can't anchor the paint.
Portland doesn't need a finesse big who drifts around the perimeter, it needs someone who can back down a defender and provide consistent low-post scoring with Marcus Camby out of the picture soon and Greg Oden's health always a serious issue.
Motiejunas could prove to be a very special player in the mold of a Dirk Nowitzki, but he's clearly a project and with the Blazers trying to build an immediate contender, they need rookies who can contribute on both ends of the floor from day one.
No. 6: Jordan Hamilton (Texas)
This is a case of an extremely talented player who simply would not fit in Portland's system. Jordan Hamilton was one of college's most consistent scorers last season and he could really make shots in a myriad of ways.
Whether from three (a 38.5 percent shooter), beating his defender off the dribble or out on the break, where Hamilton was nearly unstoppable, the Texas sophomore got his 18.6 points a game in a variety of ways.
Should Hamilton fall to the late first round, the Blazers will likely be very tempted to take him given his offensive capabilities.
However, a player like Hamilton would clash with Nate McMillan's grind-it-out, defense-oriented system and being in an unnatural system could really stifle his growth. Hamilton would be far better suited for a team that thrives in the open court like the Golden State Warriors or Denver Nuggets.
Hamilton's shot selection has often been questionable at times and his use of isolation plays wouldn't help the Blazers' occasionally stagnant offense. He also wouldn't have a clear role in the rotation, with Matthews and Roy splitting time at 2-guard and Batum and Wallace at the 3.
If Hamilton is around at No. 21, the Blazers may want to draft him on a "best available player" basis, but they need a player who'll fit their current ideology, fill a hole and provide something that they really need.
No. 7: Kyle Singler (Duke)
Kyle Singler's offensive versatility is definitely the most attractive part of his game and it may be enough to tempt Portland into taking him with its first-round pick. Portland could decide to take the Duke graduate for his floor-stretching ability in the hopes that he can contribute to the second unit's offense. He's one of the best shot-creating forwards in the draft class and is one of the few truly experienced players in a largely underclassmen draft.
While Singler's mid-range and three-point shooting are as honed as any forward's in this year's draft class, he leaves a lot to be desired defensively. Singler lacks the physicality to guard NBA power forwards and isn't quick enough to chase more agile small forwards around the perimeter.
Singler isn't strong enough to take the ball to the basket assertively and will have difficulty scoring in the paint against the league's tougher defenders.
The Blazers really need to acquire a player who won't be pushed around on the block by stronger players. One of the major problems for Portland this postseason was its inability to find a player who could consistently guard Dirk Nowitzki. Aldridge covered him in stretches, but he consistently got into foul trouble, which forced Nate McMillan to put Nicolas Batum on him. Batum is a talented defender, but his lack of strength allowed Nowitzki to continually beat him off the dribble and get to his spots on the floor.
With Marcus Camby's retirement looming, the Blazers' need for a defensive-minded frontcourt player is only more evident, and a primarily offensive player like Singler should be the last thing on the team's mind.
No. 8: Tobias Harris (Tennessee)
The Blazers need a backup power forward and Tennessee's Tobias Harris is projected as a mid- to late first-rounder who should still be available when Portland is making its selection.
Offensively Harris can stretch the floor and is one of the better shot-creating forwards in this year's draft class. His 6'11" wingspan makes up for his 6'8" stature and allows him to get off shots over larger defenders. He's also decent defensively and can rebound well for his size.
However, Harris isn't the player that the Trail Blazers need as a part of their second unit. His mid-range game is inconsistent and he can rely a little too much on his perimeter shooting. Harris isn't particularly strong and will likely be pushed around by bigger, more physical forwards in the paint.
The Blazers really need a tough, gritty forward who can contribute to the offense and bang in the paint. Harris is similar to Nicolas Batum when he entered the league, a solid all-around player but one who gets dominated by larger, stronger forwards. Though Harris can obviously bulk up and develop into a grittier player, the Blazers are looking to draft an immediate contributor as they try to move into the upper echelon of the Western Conference.
The impending retirement of Marcus Camby makes the need for an intimidating interior presence even more important and there are several players in the draft who are capable of this. If the Blazers decide to use this pick on a power forward they should look to draft a player like Kenneth Faried or one of the Morris twins, who are capable of contributing on offense and protecting the paint on the defensive end.
Tobias Harris won't give them that presence and that's why Portland should pass on him.
No. 9: Josh Selby (Kansas)
Kansas' Josh Selby has seen his stock drop rapidly throughout his freshman year in college from a lottery pick, to a mid- to late first-rounder or possibly even a second-round pick. Though he's very gifted athletically, Selby's immaturity and poor decision making on and off the court have really hurt his draft stock.
Several mock drafts have Selby potentially going to the Blazers at No. 21, since they do need some youth at the point. However, Selby's score-first mentality doesn't fit well with Portland's need for a pure point guard.
The perplexing decision to enter the NBA draft after one underwhelming, controversy-plagued season certainly doesn't make him any more attractive. Selby certainly could've used some more time at KU to develop his passing and his decision making, as well as his overall basketball IQ.
Selby's quickness and ability to get to the rim are impressive, he can run a fast break as well as any college guard, but he calls his own number just a little too often and has trouble getting the rest of his teammates involved.
Selby didn't exactly demonstrate great chemistry with his fellow Jayhawks and the Blazers thrive on Andre Miller knowing the strengths and limitations of each player. Whether he's running a high pick-and-roll/pop with L.A. or a drive-and-kick play with Wes Matthews at the three-point line, the Blazers need a point guard who will be able to work within their current system.
The Blazers would be better off taking a player like Nolan Smith with this pick. Though he may not have as high a ceiling as Selby, he's an excellent facilitator and can really run an offense, and is one of the best on-ball defenders in this year's draft class. Other players like Boston College's Reggie Jackson or Providence's Marshon Brooks would be solid choices as well.
While being mentored by a veteran like Miller could be huge for Selby's development, the team would be better off taking a sure-thing role player than an unknown like Josh Selby.
No. 10: Kemba Walker (UConn)
Kemba Walker was college's ultimate winner this past season, guiding his UConn Huskies to an unexpected NCAA title. In a draft where quality point guards are few and far between, Kemba is projected to be a high lottery pick and rumors have swirled about the Blazers moving up in the draft to select him.
However, while Kemba has a ton of potential and could very well be a star in the league for years to come, he's just not the answer that Portland's looking for at the point.
First of all, in order to move up in the draft the Blazers will likely have to send Andre Miller in any deal, whether it's with the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards or Sacramento Kings. With Miller gone, Kemba will step in as the starter from day one, and won't have anyone at his position to help him make the transition to the NBA. I love Patty Mills as much as the next guy, but he's not exactly the guy you want showing your franchise player the ropes.
If Walker proves to be more of a project than a day-one starter, the Blazers point guard situation will be awfully hazy. He'll likely be forced to play 30-plus minutes a night, and the expectations could really hinder his development.
Kemba's size is a legitimate issue as well (he's barely 6'1") and a backcourt made up of Walker and Wes Matthews would be one of the league's smallest.
Chances are Kemba will be a solid NBA point guard for years to come, but Rip City shouldn't be where his career begins.