The Portland Trail Blazers’ wish list for the 2010 NBA Draft is likely a short one.
The thing Portland needs most, after all, isn’t going to be found in the draft.
The Blazers were hampered by injuries throughout the 2009-10 season – with 13 players missing a total of 311 games – and still made the playoffs, battling the Phoenix Suns before losing in six games.
So what Portland needs most for the 2010-11 season is to stay healthy.
Well, that and a sharp-shooter who can drain three-pointers when needed, but we’ll come back to that.
In recent years, Portland has been one of the NBA’s least-predictable teams come draft time.
General manager Kevin Pritchard has engineered brilliant draft-day deals that have landed players such as Victor Claver and Jeff Pendergraph in 2009, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless in 2008 and Rudy Fernandez in 2007. As the assistant GM, Pritchard was also involved in the 2006 draft-day trades that brought Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Sergio Rodriguez to Portland.
The team has a solid nucleus of youngsters, including all of the aforementioned players except for Rodriguez, who was traded on draft day in 2009, and Claver, who is playing professionally in Spain and has yet to join the NBA.
None of these players appears to be headed anywhere any time soon. In fact, the most likely of the bunch to leave the team before the start of the 2010-11 season is Pritchard himself. Team president Larry Miller and owner Paul Allen are said to be evaluating Pritchard after becoming disenchanted with the team’s front-office situation this past season. They fired vice president of basketball operations Tom Penn during the season, and Pritchard is the next to face some scrutiny from the higher-ups. Allen has said he has no timeline for making a decision about Pritchard, but one would think the team will make a move – one way or another – before the draft.
Assuming Pritchard stays, don’t expect the same type of draft-day theatrics he’s directed over the past few years. But don’t be surprised if he pulls off a deal or two, either.
The Blazers have the Nos. 22 and 44 picks for the June 24 draft, which will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York. Here are Portland’s three best draft-day options and positions the team should target:
Long-range shooting: The Blazers’ most obvious need is a three-point shooter. Roy and Fernandez can shoot the three, as can Batum and Martell Webster, but none of them is the type of sharp-shooter who is consistent enough to come in and knock down a big shot when it’s needed. Webster led the team in 2009-10 with 124 three-pointers on 37.3 percent shooting. Batum was the most accurate at 40.9 percent, but made just 54 threes. Roy hit 73, on 33 percent shooting, and Fernandez was second on the team with 98 threes on 36.8 percent. Portland would benefit from a guy who will average around 40 percent or better from three-point range, helping take some defensive pressure off Aldridge and to make defenses pay for double-teaming Roy.
Point guard: Barring a pick for a perimeter shooter, Portland could consider drafting a point guard, perhaps even trading up to get one. As it is, the team is pretty well set at the position, with Andre Miller and Bayless. But Miller, who averaged 15.7 points and 5.8 assists as the starter in 2009-10, is 34-years old, and Bayless has a score-first mentality, so Portland could consider thinking long-term here. The problem is, after Kentucky’s John Wall – everybody’s favorite to go No. 1 overall – there just aren’t many standout true point guards in this draft. If the Blazers are thinking about trading up to get a point guard, Kentucky’s Eric Bledsoe could be a nice option, and he’d provide some perimeter shooting as well.
Center: Portland recently signed Marcus Camby to a contract extension and stands to get back Greg Oden, who missed all of 2009-10 with a knee injury. Joel Przybilla will also return at some point, after injuring his knee in December and missing the rest of the season, then re-injuring the same knee in March when he slipped in the shower, requiring a second surgery. So Przybilla’s status for the beginning of the 2010-11 season is in doubt, and Oden has been injured since the Blazers drafted him first overall in 2007, meaning Portland could, potentially, consider cutting its losses on one of the two big men and pulling off a trade to move up and draft a center to back up Camby, who has also battled injuries in his career.
NBA Draft 2010, ESPN
2010 Mock Draft, NBADraft.net
2010 Mock Draft, Draft Express