If you had told me before the season started (or even after the first eight or nine games) that we’d be getting prepared to hold a draft lottery party, I wouldn’t have believed it. But, given what we went through in the final month of the season, this was a welcome shot of excitement and helped turn the page more completely.
Obviously, you can’t change the past, so there’s not much use in second guessing what has been done. What you can do now is better yourself in the future. Given what happened on Wednesday night, combined with their flexibility heading into the market, this probably should be viewed as a good first step in what will be an eventful summer.
It sounds strange, but what we didn’t want in this draft lottery were surprises- at least until the sixth spot was set. Yes, things could have worked out slightly better, but given the long odds at that happening, the realistic goal was very much accomplished. The Trail Blazers were positioned to come up at 11, and that’s what happened. Perhaps more importantly, New Jersey was positioned to come up 6th, and that’s what happened.
Things haven’t always gone as planned for this team, as you well know, but this was once case where I’m happy to say they did. Only one other lottery team was as thrilled as Portland following the proceedings, and that of course was New Orleans. They won the lottery, and will pick first, and 10th.
More than a celebration, this turned into a giant relief. Chad Buchanan, who was sequestered in the back room at the lottery, told us as much after things ended. Wesley Matthews, a guy who wasn’t drafted at all, but now had the honor of representing his team on the dais, smiled and appeared to exhale when New Jersey’s logo was pulled out where it was projected.
Buchanan and his staff have been planning for every possible outcome. It’s this whole game of if this happens, then what? Wednesday night was huge for their planning purposes. And, to land New Jersey’s pick on this night is a huge feather in Buchanan’s cap- the memory of how he surprised many and landed simply the possibility to get the pick should be pointed out, again.
Mike Born told us, and has told us several times in the past few weeks, the team was going forward with the mindset that they would have just one pick, at #11. Anything else would be gravy. Now, of course, the pot now is much sweeter.
The Blazers have had some teams present some fairly impressive offers for that 11th pick, from what I’ve been told. They’ve been very obvious in getting the word out that one, or both, of those picks are available. If it’s true that in the weeks leading up to the lottery that they were getting some exciting feelers for the 11th, I suppose it’s safe to imagine the offers will get even more exciting for the sixth pick. How exciting? Time will tell.
The next debate has officially been kicked off. What now? Use both picks, or trade both picks? Use one and trade one? The one thing we do know is that they’ll head into draft day with at least one of those picks. They can trade one of them at any time leading up to the draft. The other one could be dealt on the day of the draft, if they choose to do that. And, even if they use both picks, it doesn’t mean both of those players will be staying in Portland.
Obviously, Anthony Davis will go number one. And, things will possibly come into greater focus for the next three or four picks. But, there will be lots of debate after that. It’s seen as a very deep draft, and that works in Portland’s favor.
I think the debate at number six, where Portland now sits, is going to be between Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, and Jeremy Lamb. But, as always, there are linchpins. One of them, I believe, is Andre Drummond. He could go as high as number two, or he could slide as far as number seven or eight. Of all the guys projected to go in the top 10, his position, at this point, seems the most fluid. He’s been dubbed a project. Or, in other words, some scouts think he’s gamble. Those are always the toughest guys to project going into a draft.
Everyone’s mock drafts are flying now, so we’ll get deeper into all of that stuff later.
It’s pretty simple from here. Decide what your major need is, as a team, and then pick a path. I think we all can agree that guard play, especially point-guard play, is incredibly vital, and that seems to be a huge priority for the Blazers. This is not a point-guard-rich draft. Are these two lottery picks enough now to trade for the guy you want? Can you get your guy with just one of the picks, or a combination of a current player and one of the picks? Will you have the money to be enough of a player on the free-agent market to get him there? Or, as some people have suggested, do you use both picks to take the best-available players and shift into a bit more of a rebuilding mode?
The pink elephant sitting in the room, of course, is what is going on with the general manager search. Yep, it’s a huge factor in all of this. And, if the many rumors are to be believed, it’s reaching a climax. I’m under the impression that Buchanan still has a shot, and certainly deserves one. At the very least, he and his staff have put the ball on the tee very nicely for the next guy. To take over a team with some cap flexibility and two lottery picks, with an owner who is willing to go over the tax to sign his own free agents, isn’t a bad way to walk into a situation and leave a mark. That’s what many guys are after, and that’s why things simply going as planned in the lottery made this an even more attractive job than it was yesterday.
Step one down. Step two is coming soon.