Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Blazer Draft Review

My apologies for going AWOL the past week ... clients in town and a short holiday vacation ate up all the free time. On to the biggest Blazer news since firing Mo Cheeks: the draft review!

Overall, I thought Portland did well. Not great, but well. Nash ended up turning the #3 and #35 picks into the #6, #22, and a first-rounder next year.

With the #6 pick, Portland selected (predictably) Martell Webster, a big shooting guard from Seattle who has an "nba-ready body" and may be the best shooter in the draft. A very solid pick. It may take a few years for Webster to develop, but I like him as a player and will be excited to see him run the backcourt for Portland next season alongside Sebastian Telfair. Clearly, Portland wasn't bluffing when they told Gerald Green that he'd need to compete against other players to be considered as a top-ten pick. I expect Webster to contribute in a similar manner as Telfair last season; coming off the bench for limited minutes early in the year and eventually taking over the starting spot by late season. It's only a matter of figuring out how quickly he can pick up the offense and adjust to the speed of the NBA game. A nice pick, and one we can all be excited about. I also have to give John Nash credit for immediately stating that "we don't expect Martell to immediately come in and start". It was obvious, but needed to be said nonetheless.

As for the #22 pick, I like Portland grabbing Jarret Jack. We here at BlazersBlog predicted that this could be a spot that Portland looked at moving up to (although not for a point guard) and dealing the #27 and #35 for this pick was fine. We've got enough youngsters on our roster, trading two to upgrade to one is a solid move. One thing about this pick that I'm not buying is the "he'll take some pressure off of Telfair" aspect. I believe the opposite to be true ... a veteran who didn't have starting aspirations would take pressure off of Telfair; in my opinion, selecting Jack actually adds a bit. Portland now has two PG's of the future, and if Jack (who's bigger and plays a different style than Telfair) plays "too well", it could could indeed cause Telfair to look over his shoulder. Which may not be a bad thing. Regardless, I think the Telfair-Jack combo at point guard will be a great compliment.

So where do the Blazers go from here? The squad's depth chart looks like this:

PG: Telfair, Van Exel, Jack
SG: Anderson, Webster, Monya
SF: Miles, Patterson, Outlaw, Khryapa
PF: Randolph,
C: Pryzbilla, Ratliff, Ha

Four things immediately stick out:

1. By my count, that's fourteen players. And Nash has spoken about adding veterans, which means a few guys have to go. This doesn't even include Richie Frahm, whom the team has restricted FA rights on. There are a few obvious solutions ... the first of which being that they'll probably let Van Exel go with nothing coming back in return. The second being that the new collective bargaining agreement contains a loophole that allows each team to, during this offseason, release one player and not pay the luxury tax on his salary. The obvious candidates for this on Portland's roster would be Derek Anderson, Ruben Patterson, or Theo Ratliff. You can draw up a list of pro's and cons for each player but it's a near certainty that it will be one of those three. My preference? Anderson. Yes, he's the only player on the team with starting 2-guard experience ... but he's worthless. I'd rather suffer through either watching a rookie struggle to learn the game or signing a retreat veteran stopgap than have DA's terrible game playing 25+ minutes per night. So there's two spots gone, and we're down to twelve.

2. We'v got a logjam at Small Forward. There are only 48 minutes per game available at the small forward spot, and you can't keep four guys happy that way. Miles has the talent to be the team's starter when he feels like it, and Outlaw has proven that he needs more minutes with his scintilating play last season. We have no idea what we've got with Sergei Monya, and he'll likely get the mop-up minutes ... which leaves Ruben Patterson as the odd-man out. If you look at the team's +/- numbers, Patterson ranks near the top in player efficiency, and the entire league knows that he plays a very high-intensity hustle game. Now that his contract only has two years left, he's got some trade value, and I expect Portland to deal him during this offseason.

3. We have no backup PF. Zach Randolph is one of the league's best PF's when healthy, but he can't play all 48 minutes. Theo Ratliff can play some PF, and since Pryzbilla has replaced him as the team's starter, it's another way to find him minutes (if he is not cut after all). This is the area where I expect Portland to use most of it's mid-level exception, to sign a veteran to take up some of those backup PF minutes and provide a bit of leadership. A couple of ideas: Udonis Haslem, Christian Laetner, Bo Outlaw, Vitaly Potapenko.

4. Assuming Van Exel doesn't play for Portland, that's an awfully young PG tandem. Yes, it sure is. And as much as Telfair and Jack's games compliment each other, we're still talking about a 19-year old and a rookie here. We've got to add a veteran who can play some minutes at the PG to give these guys some tutelage. This is the other area I expect Portland to use its MLE on. The immediate thought is Ronald Murray ... he could both handle some PG minutes and play SG if the team releases DA. The problem there is that Murray would probably want the full exception, and then you don't have anything to sign a backup PF with. Additionally, he'll want a long deal, and he isn't a viable long-term solution at either position here. I'd more expect the team to go with someone like Darrell Armstrong or Erick Strickland ... a cheap vet with experience they can sign for the short-term.

Other draft notes:
  • I can't believe Danny Granger fell to #17. Unbelievable. Teams like Toronto (Charlie Villanueva ... by far the worst pick of the day, and Joey Graham), LA Lakers (Andrew Bynum), and New Jersey (Antoine Wright) are really going to regret passing on him. Indiana got the steal of the night grabbing Granger at 17.
  • Utah's selection of Derron Williams over Chris Paul was interesting. It's as close to a Moneyball debate as you can get in hoops ... Paul's on-court performance versus Williams' all-around skill. He'll be compared to Paul for his entire career, and I expect them both to do very well.
  • Interesting that Denver passed on Francisco Garcia at #20, and took Julius Hodge. Garcia was probably the second or third best shooter in the draft, and Denver could certainly use him more than Hodge's half-court style. Nonetheless, Garcia will be a great fit in Sacramento.
  • For those of you who have Comcast on-demand, check out the sports and fitness section, then click NBA TV, then the draft, then player profiles. The analysis is useless, but they've got quick 3-4 minute videos of both Webster and Jack where you can see some highlights.

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