Another Memorable Draft Day
By mikebarrett Posted in: Blazers
We should know to expect the unexpected on a day that has been so eventful over the past few years for this organization. But, not many people expected the evening to start like it did.
Getting the news that general manager Kevin Pritchard and the Trail Blazers were ending their relationship was heartbreaking to many fans. Everyone understands that- especially those who worked closely with Kevin, and witnessed so many good things happen under his leadership. But, I can only say in the end that I trust the people who have said that there are reasons this happened. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened. I think it's okay to not understand it, especially at this time, but to accept it. You may not be so diplomatic in your assessment, and I get that.
To Kevin's credit, it was business as usual in the war room at the Blazers' practice facility during the draft. In the post-draft press conference Chad Buchanan and Mike Born repeated time and time again that Kevin approached this draft with the same passion he approached past drafts. The end goal was to make the team better, and everyone was on board with that.
Once again, Buchanan and Born had targeted specific players in the draft, and accomplished their goals of finding a way to land these players. I talked to both of them privately late in the evening, and they were both very, very excited about how the draft went.
Overshadowed by the events of the evening, was the fact that we also said goodbye to another Trail Blazer- Martell Webster. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 16th pick and Ryan Gomes. I've always loved Gomes' game, and think he'll be a great addition. I also spoke with a former member of the Timberwolves' staff who repeated over and over again that Gomes was his favorite player on the team. He spoke of his work ethic, and the way he carried himself off the floor. It's clear he very much fits the mold of what the Trail Blazers want to be, and that's vitally important.
But, obviously, this trade was much more about Luke Babbitt, the 6-9 star from the University of Nevada. The Blazers had a huge desire to work themselves into a position to acquire him, and got it done. Buchanan admitted that they didn't really think he'd be available at 16. Most mock drafts had him going much higher. When he slipped, Portland was ready to pounce, even if it cost them Webster.
As much as Buchanan and Born gushed about Babbitt, the heaped as much praise on their other first-round pick, Elliott Williams, another player who they probably didn't expect to be there at 22. He was projected to go higher. His athleticism is off the charts, and he had great pre-draft workouts. He's 6-4, and can play either guard position. I was told that Williams (along with Babbitt) had expressed a very strong desire to end up in Portland. Both players were abnormally vocal about their desires to be Trail Blazers, and that's what you want to hear.
Babbitt's teammate at Nevada, Armon Johnson, was selected with Portland's lone second-round pick. Johnson, a 6-3 guard, was the 2008 WAC Conference Freshman of the Year, and also has great promise.
Also, a note on last year's 22nd pick in the first round, Victor Claver, who was in town to work out for the Trail Blazers on Tuesday. Claver is 6-10, and is also expected to be an impact player in the NBA. Even though his season has been over for a month, Claver was impressive in his workout. I've been told there's a "slight" chance Claver could join the Trail Blazers next season, and is definitely a guy who has a bright future in the NBA.
So, like a lot of drafts, we're left with some answers, and some question marks. Clearly, the questions marks don't just surround players this year. The biggest question now is who is going to be Portland's next general manager? I've been told there will be an effort to quickly fill this position, but that every effort will be made to higher the perfect man for the job. There will be no shortage of qualified candidates, and reportedly several big names have already expressed interest.
Again, we should all publicly pay tribute to what Pritchard has done for this franchise. Turning the page isn't always easy to do, especially in the immediate aftermath of a firing like this. But, I urge you to use perspective and balance the emotions of the situation with the thought that the process was likely as difficult as those in charge tell us it was. I believe them when they say this wasn't easy, and that ultimately there were reasons that led to this decision.
Next up, summer league, the free agency period, and before you know it, training camp.