With the NBA draft but a few weeks away, I offer you the following preview: No one.
That’s right, after countless minutes scouring Google for profiles, “mocks,” and opinions regarding this year’s crop of future NBA role players, I’ve concluded that our Portland Trail Blazers have little-to-no chance of filling their necessary voids via this season’s rookie lottery.
Okay, I spent more than a few minutes reading, more than a few hours listening to podcasts, and innumerable rides in my car soaking-up the thoughts of local and national “talking heads” regarding the soon-to-be draft. But shortly following every effort to compile the data heaped upon my modest collection of grey matter, I’m left wondering what good could possibly come from a draft void of what this team actually needs?
Most early “mocks” have Portland either leaning heavily towards a big man, or reaching for a yet-ripened “Euro” in an effort to provide future depth at small forward so as to open the door for a prospective Nicolas Batum trade. Ahem … excuse me for a minute … WHAT!? So we’re to be excited about an opportunity to draft an unproven, unimpressive, and unquestionably mysterious big man, and/or a prepubescent “international” unlikely to contribute in the foreseeable future? I think that’s called Meyers Leonard, Rudy Fernandez, Petteri Koponen, and any of the other underachievers we were led to believe held the key to future success at positions of need.
I don’t want to bang too heavily on young Mr. Leonard, for he’s but a year in, and I personally believe there’s hope regarding his level of future contribution, but the “draft a young Euro, leave him be to mature, then call him to the big stage a couple years down the line” approach has reaped few rewards in the history of this illustrious league, and fewer in the history of this franchise. For every Arvydas Sabonis, there’s a Federico Kammerichs or Nedzad Sinanovic. For every Drazen Petrovic, there’s a Sergei Monia or Victor Khryapa. And for every Victor Claver, there’s a hundred other Victor Claver’s waiting to be waiting to be this year’s Victor Claver … if you know what I mean.
Everyone who follows these drafts far more closely than you or I has long described this year’s version as milk-toast to say the least. Nerlins Noel, most’s de facto number one pick, is a rail-thin Center with a limited offensive game coming off of ACL surgery. Otto Porter, the projected #3 pick, is described by one publication as “… not having great talent and doesn’t appear to have much upside.” And another projected top-5 pick, Alex Len, is a 7’ 1” center from Maryland who is described far too many times in his profile as “a work in progress” to not rate high on my Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid Meter. No one around by Portland’s #10 pick is capable of helping this team next year, and unless one of them miraculously becomes a legitimate Two-Guard, an NBA rim protector, or a proven scorer off the bench, the franchise and its fans will continue to be left looking for help that just isn’t there.
I want to be excited about the prospects of Portland’s #10 pick, but reality says that said excitement doesn’t exist. Outside of Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, and possibly Anthony Bennett, there doesn’t appear to be anyone capable of truly making the Blazers better next season. You can talk yourself into Cody Zeller of Indiana. You can talk yourself into Steve Adams from Pittsburgh. Or you can talk yourself into Shabazz Muhammad from UCLA. But a true prospect doesn’t need any convincing, and unfortunately convincing is all this draft affords us to do.