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The Draft

"Twice in my lifetime they have taken a injury prone center over the leading scorer in the NBA." "Every time I see a Kevin Durant highlight on Sportscenter I change the channel because I start to cry." These statements were made by my father in the last few days. He is of course mentioning the disastrous Sam Bowie over Jordan pick, and the recent Oden over Durant choice. With the playoffs approaching and the hope of a long playoff run looking slim, some Blazer fans have now begun to look forward to the NBA draft.
The Blazers draft history has been hit or miss for their entire existence. They have either been wonderful late round sleeper picks, great picks at the top of the board, or complete busts. Let's run through some high and low moments in the draft history of our favorite team.
The successful picks:
1970: Geoff Petrie 8th pick, The first great Blazer. Rookie of the year in the Blazers first season.
1974: Bill Walton 1st pick, Led the team to the title. Obvious 1st pick that year. Could do everything on the floor and was the ultimate team player. 1977 NBA Finals game 6: 20 points, 23 rebounds, 7 assists, and 8 blocks. Enough said.
1975: Bob Gross 2nd round, The Batum of the 77 championship team. Remembered for his hustle, defense, and the time Dr J put him on a poster in the finals.
1976: Maurice Lucas 2nd pick in the ABA dispersal draft, The Enforcer and one of the best Blazer players ever. Did everything for his team. Walton calls him the greatest player he ever played with. Those are strong words from a guy who played with Larry Bird when Bird was in his prime.
1983: Clyde Drexler 14th pick, Houston had two chances to take him. (He played for Houston in college) A Drexler Hakeem combo for their whole career? Oh boy. Thanks to every team above 14 who didn't take him. Clyde was the 2nd best player in the league behind Jordan in 90, 91, and 92.
1984: Jerome Kersey 46th pick, Little known player from Longwood University. Key player on the late 80's early 90's teams. A more athletic Travis Outlaw but with a higher basketball IQ.
1985: Terry Porter 24th pick, Another little known player from Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Could shoot from anywhere on the court and never backed down from a challenge. Coaching career has been unsuccessful compared to his playing career.
1986: Arvidas Sabonis 24th pick, took a risk and had to wait until 1995 before he came over from the Soviet Union. Successful pick even though we didn't see his best basketball by a long shot.
1989: Cliff Robinson 36th pick, Uncle Cliffy was a key bench player during the championship runs. Brought defense, energy, and the headband craze to Portland.
1990-2005: Blazers don't have any high picks. They either trade the picks (I'm talking to you Bob Whitsitt), or make bad decisions. More on this later.)
2006: Tyrus Thomas 4th pick (only because they traded him for the 2nd pick Lamarcus Aldridge), Thanks to John Paxon for making that trade. I think he would like a redo. LA looks like the power forward of the future for the Blazers. If he learns some new post moves and puts on some muscle, we have a player to be excited about.
2006: Randy Foye 7th pick (Traded for Roy), See above but replace Kevin Mchale for Paxon. When you really think about it, Boston should have Roy right now. Boston traded their first round pick to Minnesota in the KG trade. Minnesota took Roy, we took Foye, and the rest is history. So Boston could have Rondo, Al Jefferson, Pierce, and Brandon Roy right now. Looks better for the future instead of Rondo, Pierce, KG, and Ray Allen.
2009: Dante Cunningham 33rd pick. The next Uncle Cliffy minus the headband. Defense, energy, and a solid midrange game.
The not so successful selections:
1972: LaRue Martin 1st pick, widely regarded as the worst #1 pick ever in an NBA draft. He was out of the league after his rookie contract was up. LaRue just couldn't play in the NBA. They also passed up Bob "Can Do" McAdoo, who was selected 2nd. Bob McAdoo is in the Hall of Fame. LaRue Martin works for UPS.
1976: Wally Walker 5th pick. Passed up Adrian Dantley and Robert Parish.
1978: Mychal Thompson 1st pick. Boston took junior Larry Bird with the 6th pick. Bird was still in school but there was some strange rule where you could take players and then wait for them to graduate. While Boston and the Lakers were the only teams rumored to take Bird, Bird would have looked nice in a Blazer uniform.
1984: Sam Bowie 2nd pick. This simply was the worst pick in NBA history. Not only did they pass up on Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, they selected a center who was out TWO SEASONS with broken shinbones at Kentucky. They had just recently been though the Bill Walton foot injury saga. They also apparently gave Bowie a 7 hour physical before the draft. If a physical takes 7 hours that should be a red flag. They also had taken Mychal Thompson with the first pick just 6 years earlier. Guess what position he played? Center. Lets move on before I punch something.
1987: Ronnie Murphy 17th pick. Mark Jackson went 18th. They had Terry Porter at PG, but Ronnie Murphy over the player with the 3rd most assists of all time?
1995: Sean Respert 8th pick. Traded for Gary Trent (11th pick). Passed up Theo Ratliff, Michael Finley, and the immortal Greg Ostertag. Just kidding about Ostertag. I would take Ratliff and Finley over Trent any day of the week.
1996: Jermaine O'Neal 17th pick. Youngest player ever to play in an NBA game. Unsuccessful because he got no playing time and they traded him too soon for a washed up Dale Davis. Put up great numbers in Indiana and now his corpse is making $22 million this season. That's correct, Jermaine O'Neal is the 2nd highest paid player in the NBA this year. And people wonder why the league is losing money...
2000: Erick Barkley 28th. The Blazers ring in the new millennium by taking a player who never saw the floor. Oh and Michael Redd went 43rd. Do over please.
2001: Zach Randolph 19th. Unsuccessful because the Blazers didn't win many games when he was starting, he was the classic "I think I'm better than I really am" player that you should only see at the YMCA, he isn't on the team anymore, and the fact that they chose him over Tony Parker and Gilbert Arenas.
2002: Qyntel "the original dog-fighter" Woods 21st. The Qyntel era never worked out. Passed on Tayshaun Prince, Carlos Boozer, and Luis Scola. In other news, Qyntel was unstoppable in video games and got in trouble for dog fighting.
2004: Sebastian Telfair 13th. Should have gone to college, couldn't make a 15 foot jumper to save his life, and was 6 feet tall on a good day. Passed on Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, and Jameer Nelson.
2004: Viktor Khryapa and Sergei Monia 22nd and 23rd. Both of them are back in Europe after weak NBA careers. Passed on Kevin Martin, Delonte West, Anderson Varejao, and Trevor Ariza, who all have steady paying jobs.
2005: Martell Webster 6th. Sorry Andre Miller. Deron Williams or Chris Paul should be our point guard right now. The Blazers had the 3rd pick but traded it to Utah for the 6th and the 27th pick. Williams and Paul went 3rd and 4th to Utah and New Orleans. To make matters worse, the Blazers passed up on Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, and David Lee ( twice the Blazers could have picked him). Martell could develop into a solid player who can shoot and play defense, but give me Deron Williams or Chris Paul instead.
2007: Greg Oden 1st. You can't call this a bad pick. The Blazers needed a center and Oden was all they ever wanted. His injury woes have truly been devastating for Blazer fans of all ages. Oden hasn't played enough to show the Blazers what he can bring to the table. I would put this pick in the "wait and see" section. But Durant is making this pick look worse and worse every game. Durant is two years older than me and would be a senior in college right now, yet he is currently in a dead heat with Lebron in the scoring race. How many points would he be averaging in college right now? 45? For the health of my dad and other Blazer fans, I hope Oden gets healthy and plays to his potential. If Durant continues on this pace and Oden can't stay on the court, this pick could very well rival Bowie over Jordan and Webster over Williams and Paul.

So what direction should the Blazers go on draft night? Knowing Kevin Prichard and the front office, we should expect the unexpected. They look set at point guard for the next few years with Andre, Bayless, and Roy bringing it up the court in crunch time. Shooting guard is interesting. Roy is the franchise player and will hopefully be in Portland for a long time. The rumor of Rudy going back to Spain gives us a scenario of the Blazers taking a shooting guard in the draft to back up Roy and relieve him of some minutes. Martell is also a solid backup to Roy if he is playing smart and making shots. Batum is the small forward of the future and Rudy and Martell are also solid backups to Batum. Either one of these players could start or finish a game depending on how well they are playing and the team matchup. LaMarcus is the power forward of the future for now. Even though most people think the Blazers heavily overpaid him and numerous fans have been yelling at the TV instructing him to take it to the basket like a man, he should be here for a while. LaMarcus is better when the Blazers have a legit center like Marcus, Joel, or Greg. He has been forced to play long minutes and crash the boards more this year with all the injuries the team has dealt with. I would love to see Jawan Howard come back next year and share bench minutes with Dante (Jawan is on pace to play until he is 85 and has no feeling in any body part). The center position is the most interesting of the bunch. It doesn't look like Marcus Camby is going to be back next year. Both of our centers are coming off severe knee injuries. Oden should be ready sooner than later (there have even been rumors of him coming back for the playoffs. Stay tuned). But nobody really knows when Joel will be back and he might miss a little bit of next season (who knew showers were so dangerous?).
I know it sounds corny and simple, but the Blazers should take the best player available with whatever pick they have. John Wall and Evan Turner are the only true blue chip players that are going to be in the draft. Unless KP somehow swings a trade to get the first or second pick, I expect the front office to select a player with upside who could spend some time on the bench, or an international player to stash overseas and mature. The depth chart is looking good and if the team can stay healthy next season we are looking at a high playoff seed. I'm very excited for the postseason and the offseason. Let's hope for the best.

Owen Reutlinger