Elhassan: Blazers Have 9th Best Under-25 Roster
Amin Elhassan over at ESPN.com ranked all 30 NBA teams by the quality of their under-25 players
. Some of the rankings are a bit head-scratching (Jazz and Bulls being ranked third and sixth, respectively, seems too high while the Wizards at eleven seems way too low), but having the Trail Blazers at No. 9 feels about right.
Players: Will Barton (22), Nicolas Batum (24), Victor Claver (24), Allen Crabbe (21), Meyers Leonard (21), Damian Lillard (23), C.J. McCollum (21), Thomas Robinson (22)
"License to Lillard" is the name of the popular web series centered around Lillard's day-to-day life, but it also can refer to the permission granted to the Rookie of the Year to wreak havoc on the league last season. Lillard was one of the breakout stars of the 2012-13 season, as a scoring guard with point guard feel and playmaking, and he made the top 25 under 25 as a result. Lost in the hoopla of Lillard's play was a career year from Batum, who is entering his sixth season in the NBA. His all-around game finally got a chance to shine under new head coach Terry Stotts, as Batum was one of just eight players to average at least 14 points, five rebounds and four assists per game.
Barton showed some promise as a raw, untamed scoring talent; Leonard exhibited potential as a raw, unrefined athlete at center; and Claver flashed as a multi-talented wing with size. But the real haul came in the draft, as the Blazers were able to bolster their bench by drafting McCollum, a gifted scoring combo guard, and Crabbe, a pure shooter with size. Finally, the acquisition of Robinson might turn out to be the steal of the summer if he can develop into the type of player teams thought he could be coming out of Kansas a year ago.
Neil Olshey talked yesterday after the Mo Williams about the importance of having a good mix of young and veteran players, and when you see that eight players on Portland's 15-man roster are under 25, you can tell he means it.
The Trail Blazers are rated just below the Pistons (Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe alone are enough to put them in the Top 10) and just above the Timberwolves (If Kevin Love weren't 24, Minnesota would probably be ranked at least 10 spots worse).