NBA Draft 2011: Why the Portland Trail Blazers Should Be Considered Winners

Tyler Ward@twardyyyAnalyst IJune 24, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks at the podium during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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After months and months of anticipation, the 2011 NBA draft is over. From picks No. 1 to 60, there was a lot of drama, trades and surprises.

As well, there will always be that topic that will be debated for years to come—who won and lost? It is just speculation now, as none of these players have stepped a single foot on the floor for an NBA team.

But for now, us fans can only talk about the draft from our perspectives.

Considered the weakest draft since 2000, this year's class really didn't have that one superstar like the last few years—Derrick Rose, John Wall, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and so on.

There are a couple of players that could turn out to be very good in the NBA, but the majority will be either backups or benchwarmers.

On paper, there seemed to be quite a few teams that totally missed on their draft picks, but there were also a few that fulfilled their needs. The Blazers may have not fulfilled all their needs, but they still did a good job.

Let's look at a quick review of what they did on draft night:

- Selected Duke point guard Nolan Smith (21st overall)

- Selected Ohio State guard Jon Diebler (51st overall)

- In a three-team deal, the Blazers sent guard Rudy Fernandez and 2007 draft pick Petteri Koponen to Dallas; Dallas sent the draft rights of Jordan Hamilton to Denver and the draft rights of Tanguy Ngombo to Portland; Denver sent point guard Raymond Felton to Portland

The Blazers did an excellent job in the draft, especially making the deal that landed Raymond Felton.

Prior to the 2010-11 season, Felton signed a two-year deal worth approximately $15.8 million with the Knicks.

Felton showed a good amount of promise in New York last season, starting 54 games and averaging 17.1 points and 9.0 assists in a tad over 38 minutes per game.

However, his stint in New York didn't last too long, as he was part of the blockbuster trade that sent superstar Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks.

Felton ended up with the Nuggets and lost his starting role immediately to Ty Lawson, their 2008 first-round draft selection (via Minnesota). Felton had practically been a starter his entire career, beginning with his selection by the Bobcats in the 2005 NBA draft.

He would go on to accept his role as a backup, but secretly he wasn't too happy. His statistics significantly decreased in Denver, as he dropped down to averages of 11.5 points and 6.5 assists per game.

Felton feels like he can be a commendable starter in the NBA, and he was never going to be that in Denver, as the Nuggets had gone in a younger direction.

Throughout the playoffs and even after the Mavericks won their first championship, there was much speculation that the Nuggets would eventually deal Felton away. The only question was which team would land the former North Carolina star.

That team would end up being the Portland Trail Blazers.

The front office struck gold with the acquisition of Felton. He replaces an aging Andre Miller, who was dealt to Denver in the deal.

Portland wants to contend for a championship now, and it thought that it would never reach the Finals with Miller at the helm. The point guard is still a very good player, but his skills are diminishing, and he is no longer an electric scoring option.

He played just two years for the Blazers, with last season arguably being the best of the two years. Miller played and started in 81 games during the 2010-11 season, while averaging 12.7 points, 7.0 assists and 3.7 rebounds.

Prior to last season, he put up averages of 14.0 points, 5.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game in 2009-10.

He didn't play spectacularly bad at all during his stint, but the Blazers front office felt that they needed to go in a different direction if they wanted to contend in the Western Conference for the next few years.

Swapping Miller for Felton is a hell of a deal, especially since the latter is almost nine years younger than Miller. Felton is also in the prime of his career, so one can expect him to be at his best over the next couple of seasons.

Although this upcoming season will be the last year on Felton's contract, he should sign a multi-year contract extension with the Blazers when the season is up. Hopefully, it will end in June.

The addition of Felton should help the Blazers win a couple of more games this season, and there is a good chance that they could lock up a higher playoff seed.

However, the Blazers weren't done adding point guards to the team.

With their first-round selection, Portland nabbed Duke point guard Nolan Smith with the 21st overall selection.

I was somewhat disappointed with the selection, but I soon realized that he was the best point guard on the board, and that was arguably the position that needed the most tweaking.

Last season, Smith averaged a healthy 20.6 points, along with 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds, in roughly 34 minutes of action per game.

Smith started for the Blue Devils for the majority of the season last year, while helping lead Duke to a postseason berth. The 2010 champions would get bounced out of the tournament by the Arizona Wildcats in the Sweet 16.

Duke would not have gotten that far if it weren't for its senior point guard.

With great leadership qualities and an exceptional basketball IQ, Smith could eventually supplant Felton as the starter if he fails to sign an extension after the 2011-12 season (if there is one). Smith's high basketball IQ could also help him become a better point guard quicker, as he will be able to learn the playbook faster than most rookies.

He will also be able to adequately run an offense and take pressure off the newly acquired Felton.

Standing at 6'3", Smith has a significant height advantage over some of the point guards currently in the NBA. That will only help him become more comfortable in the league, as an advantage of that nature is better than some people think.

His height could also let him play at shooting guard, although the Blazers seem practically stacked at that position.

Smith has a tendency to not turn the ball over that much, which is something that a lot of point guards have problems with. His ball security is outstanding and could lead to more wins for Portland in tight games.

He is also able to efficiently attack the rim and make plays in the paint, whether it is shooting the ball or dishing it out to his teammates. With such a great basketball IQ, as I previously mentioned, Smith can also make quick decisions when it comes to either taking it to the rim, dribbling back to take jump shots or taking floaters or layups.

Additionally, Smith is a dependable shooter from the outside and doesn't just resort to taking it to the rim or attempting to find his teammates. He shot just 35 percent from three-point range last season, but with work and effort, he could become a lot better.

Defensively, he could become one of the best on the team. His height advantage gives him the opportunities to block shots or get steals, two fields that the Blazers are lacking in.

His basketball smarts give him the ability to read opposing point guards and anticipate potential mistakes. That advantage alone could lead to good averages in the stealing and rebounding departments.

After reviewing Smith and watching some of his highlights, I soon realized that they made a potentially great selection. He will likely receive some minutes this season and be penciled in as the backup to Felton, as he hopes to learn that the NBA is way different from the collegiate levels.

The acquisition of Smith could mean that this is the end of Patrick Mills, who is currently a free agent. Mills was the 55th overall pick of the Blazers in the 2008 draft, but he never received a decent number of minutes during his young career.

With their second-round selection, the Blazers drafted Jon Diebler with their 51st overall selection.

This selection also puzzled me, as many mock drafts around the Internet didn't even have Diebler getting selected.

I also didn't understand why they drafted a shooting guard, a position where there is a surplus that already includes Brandon Roy, Wesley Matthews and Elliot Williams, the team's first-round selection last year.

Diebler could become a long shot to make the team, but there are a few positives that follow the former Buckeye.

He is a very accurate shooter, as he averaged over 50 percent from three-point range last season for Ohio State. Like Jimmer Fredette, Diebler's range is limitless, as he can make shots from all over the court.

He also rarely takes "bad" shots and is not scared to put the ball on the floor. The guard can also move down the hardwood quickly in transition in hopes of easy buckets. This also gives the Blazers a fathomable ability to spread the ball around and get players wide open.

The shooting guard also stands at 6'6", which gives him an advantage over most people that play the same position. This means that Diebler has the ability to separate himself from his defenders and shoot over them.

Like first-round selection Nolan Smith, Diebler also has a very high basketball IQ and could learn the plays quicker than most.

His offensive game could potentially be great, as he reminds me of Kyle Korver. Diebler may not be considered a starter or a sixth man, but he could become a very viable option for a three-point specialist.

As of now, it is not certain if he will make the team, but with a good number of positives, there should be no surprise if he makes the 15-man roster. If he does make the team, he may be at the very end of the bench, but he could still help the team if they needed him.

Portland was not done selecting either. The Blazers received small forward Tanguy Ngombo from Dallas in the three-team trade that also netted them Raymond Felton.

There is not a very good chance that Ngombo will make the team, and there is a very strong possibility that he will not even make it to the NBA this season anyway. He is definitely a long shot to make the 15-man roster.

Throughout the draft, I was surprised that the Blazers did not use any of their selections on a big man, something that they desperately need.

LaMarcus Aldridge is arguably the cornerstone and building block of the future, but he can't do it all by himself in the frontcourt. Marcus Camby lines up beside him at center, but it is not known whether he will return to the NBA for the 2011-12 season.

After Aldridge and Camby, the Blazers really do not have any suitable players. They will likely try to sign one or two frontcourt players in free agency, but I always speculated that they would end up taking a big man in the first round (my mock draft had them taking Kenneth Faried).

Overall, the Blazers had one of the best nights, as they got younger and better at the point guard position. They still need help in the frontcourt, but they should make a run at a few players in free agency.

Portland's Draft Grade: B

For more 2011 NBA draft coverage, stay tuned to Bleacher Report for B/R's Big Board of RecruitsNBA draft rumorsNBA draft results and NBA draft grades.


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