The biggest question for the Portland Trail Blazers is whether they are going to re-sign restricted free agent, Nicolas Batum. A lot of what happens in the draft starts with Batum. With what’s out there as far as small forwards go, this may cost them.
Batum will be a much sought out free agent this summer. At only 23 years of age, he can do a little bit of everything. This is what you expect out of a small forward. Batum can defend, which he does at multiple positions. He can score in a variety of ways, he can knock down the set shot three-pointer, he has developed his catch and shoot jumper while coming off screens, and he can also attack the basket. He can rebound as well. This is a guy that Portland will want to keep around.
The only small forward that the Blazers have under contract is Luke Babbitt. He is not a starter in this league. Babbitt began to show his range this past season. He is also a decent rebounder. After that, he doesn’t bring much to the table. His defense isn’t even a quarter as good as Batum’s and he has little to no ball handling skills. He kind of reminds me of what Mike Miller is now – after the injuries. He could become a solid role player in this league, but if the Blazers decide to pair him with another pick to get a proven veteran or move up in the draft, then so be it.
In the free-agency department, there isn’t much out there after Batum. Looking at free agents, there isn’t anyone I’d rather have on this team over Nic. I believe the Blazers organization feels the same way, and Batum should remain a Blazer.
Matt Barnes could come in and be a nice role player for any team. He does little things to help a team win. He doesn’t hurt you on either side of the ball. He can score, but he doesn’t demand the ball offensively, and he plays hard nose defense.
Another guy I like is Terrence Williams. I never really paid too much attention to his game until LaMarcus Aldridge’s charity game last offseason. I really liked his game. He is a young guy who has the potential to be a good scorer. He was one of the most efficient guys in that charity game. He is very athletic and could help fuel Batum by challenging him in practices.
There are a few shooting guards that could come in and play a little small forward as well. A few guys I think could be a good fit to do so would be C.J. Miles or Shannon Brown. As far as potential starters go, I’m sticking with Batum as the guy.
Even though this draft class is loaded with talent, it somewhat lacks talent in the small forward department. Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Harrison Barnes are two guys that could be top-5 picks. Other than these two, there are a lot of questionable players at this position. There are 5 guys after Anthony Davis that will be considered in the top 5 – so one of those 5 guys will fall to Portland, at 6th overall.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrest – Kentucky: There is no question that MKG will not fall to 6. Scouts seem to really like him – he may not last past the third pick. The Blazers likely won’t try to move up to get him unless they decide to part ways with Batum. MKG brings a ton of defensive energy. Some compare him to Gerald Wallace. He is a little raw when it comes to his offensive skills, but that is something that he will be able to develop and work on. Kentucky didn’t need him to score that much with all the players that they had in their offensive arsenal.
Harrison Barnes – North Carolina: Barnes is one of the five that will likely fall down to a top-10 pick. He can go anywhere from 4-10. With his physical stature, he can come in and help a team right now. He has the ability to compete on both ends of the court and has the potential to be a prolific scorer in this league. This is another option for the Blazers to consider when evaluating whether or not Batum will remain with the team. If the team feels comfortable that they will resign Batum, then they may look in other areas with the 6th pick.
With the 11th pick, the only real options are two guys that I talked about in my power forward options column, Perry Jones III and Terrence Jones. Since then, Perry Jones has been falling quite a bit. I have now seen him drop as low as the 17th overall pick.
Both Joneses (no relation) are believed to be able to play both forward positions. They have the length, along with the strength to play at the 4, and they have the athleticism to play small forward. Both guys were in town for a workout this week and could be options with the 11th pick.
Terrence is more suitable at small forward than Perry is. Terrence has played a little bit of both positions in college, and I think he will find himself doing the same in the NBA.
Mark Harkless, out of St. John’s has risen up in mock drafts, but I still see him as a mid-late first rounder and too much of a reach to take at 11.
Another guy that I covered in my power forward column was Jae Crowder out of Marquette. With his smaller size, he has been listed as a small forward recently. I noticed him when I watched some of the draft combine footage. I saw him knock down just about every shot while going through drills. He has a good jump shot and brings a ton of energy. However, he has risen since my power forward preview as well and could be gone in the first round.
When you get to the second round, the small forwards are even scarcer.
Quincy Miller and Darius Miller are two guys that could be available with the Blazers’ back-to-back picks in the second round.
Quincy has a troubling knee, and with the history of this team’s knee injuries, I believe we stay away from him.
Darius Miller on the other hand, could come in and do exactly what he did in college. In the last two seasons he became a role player for the talent rich Kentucky Wildcats. Coming into the NBA, people believe that he can bring the same mindset that he had in college in order to be a role player. Don’t overlook this guy just because he didn’t start in college, he can play. He averaged just under 10 points in his final year at Kentucky, all while playing behind the likes of Michael Kidd-Gilchrest and Terrence Jones.
I just read about another option for Blazers. According to The Oregonian’s Mike Tokito, general manager Neil Olshey has hinted on the idea of bringing over 2009 draft pick, Victor Claver from overseas. He has been playing in Spain ever since.
Claver was Portland’s 22nd overall pick in 2009. His length and ability should transition just fine into the NBA. He lacks in assertiveness and lateral quickness, which could hinder some of his abilities in the NBA. He does some of the same things guy as Luke Babbitt, but he is more athletic and runs the court well. He can shoot the ball very well, he can rebound, and he has length. This makes Babbitt even more disposable when looking at draft day trades.