Tuesday, May 11, 2010

HolyBackBoard Draft Look Ahead: Version 4.0

Now that the draft entrants are set after the May 8th withdrawal deadline has come and gone and Portland's picks are set in stone after tie-breakers were held, it is time to update the top 5 prospects the Trail Blazers should realistically be targeting. For the second straight season, Portland reached the 50 win plateau as well as being bounced from the first round of the playoffs, this time at the hands of the Phoenix Suns. As the season headed down the stretch, it became clear this squad had a few glaring needs, such as another scorer off the bench, preferably a 3-point assassin or a big, bruising power forward to relieve Aldridge. The combination of losing three separate tie-breakers for draft positioning and a late-season surge, presumably in large part to the acquisition of Camby, took the Trail Blazers further away from the lottery than I expected, forcing a huge overhaul in the entrees the team should be eying. The Trail Blazers own the 22nd and 44th picks in the 2010 NBA Draft.
  1. C-Hassan Whiteside: Marshall

  2. For the next two seasons, at least, Portland is set at center, but that all rests on the shoulders of 36 year old Marcus Camby. Seeing both Oden and Przybilla go down with knee injuries this past season has made another center, for insurance purposes, a top priority. Hassan Whiteside is a Freshman eligibility wise, but due to being born in '89, he's two years older than the average Frosh. Everything physically a team would look for in a center, Whiteside attributes: height (7 ft. tall), length (7-6 wingspan), agility. Compared to our own Camby, Whiteside is an elite level shot blocker, averaging 5.4 blocks in only 26 minutes of action to go along with 13.7 points and 8.9 rebounds. Why then is nation's leader in blocks mocked to go late-lottery at best? Questions of a poor work ethic combined with a lack of a true offensive game, make him one of the rawest prospects in the draft. Normally in the past Portland would stay away from those red flags, but we have the culture in place to instill a strong work ethic upon him and bring him along slowly as he sits until Camby is ready to ride off into the sunset.

  3. PF-Ekpe Udoh:Baylor

  4. One of the players who improved their stock most in the NCAA Tournament was Baylor's power forward Ekpe Udoh. Although Udoh doesn't display a great offensive game, he wouldn't need to be the savior for the Trail Blazers, who are just looking for a backup 4 to spell LaMarcus. Even without a true offensive move, he still put up 13.9 points, 9.8 rebounds, and a fifth best 3.7 blocks per game. What he lacks in traditional post-moves, he makes it up with a lightning quick first step for a person of his size (as seen by the video below), which aids him in getting to all the loose balls, and at 6-10, he loves to shot block and can do so with either hand. Udoh is the perfect fit for what the Blazers are looking for in a bench player and as shown by his progression from his two years at Michigan to where he is at now, not only does there seem to be more potential in his game but a strong work ethic is engraved in him as well.

  5. C-Larry Sanders:Virginia Commonwealth

  6. Yet another long, lanky big man makes the list, this time it's VCU's Larry Sanders. Relatively new to the game, Sanders has only been hooping for five years and accompanied by his 7-7 wingspan, it has allowed for him to become one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. Anytime a 6-10 big man has abnormally long arms, is still relatively raw in a basketball sense, and already has an instinct for blocking shots, has to be looked at with great consideration come draft time. Over the course of his Junior year, Sanders lead the 27-9 Rams in scoring, rebounding, and blocks with averages of 14.4, 9.1 and 2.6 respectively. Compared to a former Trail Blazer, Theo Ratliff, Sanders would most likely be a one-trick pony in the league, but with their starting unit set for the foreseeable future, the Blazers need to find players who can carve out a niche for themselves. Just like with Whiteside, there would be no rush in putting Sanders on the floor right away. Working on his game on a daily basis with Bill Bayno could do wonders for Larry and the Blazers could reap those rewards down the line when a center position opens up.

  7. SG-Dominique Jones:South Florida

  8. The most glaring weakness on the Trail Blazers roster is a pure scorer off the bench, something missed since Outlaw was injured, then traded. Players such as Outlaw, Crawford, Terry, and J.R. Smith all have the ability to change the complexion of a game in a split-second with their firepower off the pine. A player in Portland's draft range who could fill that void, could be South Florida's Dominique Jones. As a 6-4 shooting guard, Jones is likened to Detroit's Rodney Stuckey, with his skill set allowing him to bring the ball up the court and look for the open teammate or go into all-out attack mode. Averages of 21.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, and 3.6apg were impressive enough to garner 1st Team All-Big East honors in arguably the toughest conference in America. Similar to Bayless in the sense he not only plays with the same chip-on-the-shoulder mentality, but Dominique works hard in practice, busts his butt defensively, and is relentless in getting to the line, shown by his 8.5 free throw attempts per game.

  9. SG-Avery Bradley:Texas

  10. Bradley's one and only year at Texas didn't turn out exactly how he would have liked as seen by his averages 11.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg and 2.1 apg, his team going from #1 to unranked, and ultimately bounced out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But there is no mistaking his talent. At 6-2, he is strictly an off-guard, not possessing enough point guard skills to run the show, but think along the lines of Eric Gordon/Monta Ellis, players who can fill it up quickly off the dribble as well as spotting up. Like our own Jerryd Bayless, his athleticism allows him to finish at the rim ferociously. Unlike those two previously mentioned, Bradley is a suffocating defender, even being singled out as the top perimeter defender in the draft. Looking at small guards doesn't mean Portland should look to replace Bayless, rather these players in particular, would compliment Bayless on both ends of the court. Defensively, either Bradley or Jones would pair with Jerryd to trap, fluster, and agitate opposing guards and on offense their shooting ability would spread the floor and allow Jerryd to operate a bit more freely.

2nd Round Steals
  1. PG-Jerome Randle:California
  2. SF-Da'Sean Butler:West Virginia
  3. PF-Jarvis Vanardo:Mississippi State

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