By now, draft analysts and sports journalists have spent many hours discussing the Portland Trail Blazers first round pick, guard C.J. McCollum out of Lehigh University. Apparently, the front office liked the point guard with a shooting touch from a small school they got last year so much, they wanted another one.
However, the real value in the draft for Portland will be determined by the players acquired after the first round. Allen Crabbe, a shooting guard out of California, was selected 31st overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers and acquired in a trade in exchange for two future second round picks. The Blazers then selected Kansas center Jeff Withey with the 39th pick, and chose forward Marko Todorovic from Spain with the 45th pick.
The real interest here from a lineup standpoint is Withey, a defensive powerhouse. Projected by many analysts to go in the mid to late first round, Withey was arguably one of the top five defenders in all of college basketball last season. His shot-blocking is top flight, with Withey averaging 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes. Withey's volleyball background shows in his ability to keep his blocked shots in bounds. He is equally effective in both man-to-man and zone defenses, though he will need to increase his muscle mass to compete against the top big men in the league in the paint. His offensive game is not NBA ready yet, especially facing away from the basket, but he can finish effectively on second chance opportunities. With J.J. Hickson likely not staying in Portland, the question will be if Withey will be ready to handle a large amount of minutes in his rookie season. Withey will be competing for playing time with Portland's other first round pick from a year ago, Meyers Leonard, and both players will need to have a strong training camp.
Crabbe was one of the Pac-12's top scorers last season, carrying a California team to the Round of 32. He is a shockingly effective shooter at range, even if his three-point percentage dropped from 40% as a sophomore to 35% as a junior. His ability to catch and shoot will be a tremendous asset for the Blazers, and he should be able to contribute well on the offensive end in his rookie season. His biggest strength in college was fighting through defenses to create uncontested shots for himself, and works best when an offense is not focused around him. With defenses keying in on Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, Crabbe should have plenty of those opportunities. Crabbe's biggest issues are his ball control (he averaged almost three turnovers per game) and his lack of passing awareness (only 2.6 assists per game last season). These traits are vital for a shooting guard at the NBA level, and Crabbe will need to bring them up to par. At the very least, Crabbe will be an effective scorer off the bench, something the Blazers desperately needed.
Marko Todorovic, a 6'10, 240 pound forward from Montenegro, was a strong presence for Euro League final four team FC Barcelona Regal this previous season. He is not an explosive player, and found his playing time limited on a strong club, but he has good footwork and a strong frame. He is a project player at this point, as he turns the ball over far too much and lacks experience in the paint. He struggles to create his own shot, though has surprising agility coming in and out of the post. Todorovic is under contract with Barcelona and will play in Europe next season, though Portland can bring him in next season. He possesses great upside, though it will take a large step in his development for him to be NBA ready.
As of this morning, Todorovic was traded to Houston with another project for Thomas Robinson.