On a truly Portland day, cloudy and overcast, the newest Trail Blazers were introduced to the city during a press conference at the Regence Boys & Girls Club in North Portland. Three guards, come to help bring the Trail Blazers to the next level.
Raymond Felton—acquired from Denver in a draft day trade involving Andre Miller, Rudy Fernandez and rights to a few draft picks—is a point guard in his prime. Head Coach Nate McMillan and Interim General Manager Chad Buchanan praised the young guard who contributes not only as a floor general but also as a scorer who drives the lane and will take the outside shot.
“We’re getting Felton in his prime, where I think he still has room to grow and improve,” McMillan said. “We’re hoping that we catch him at the right time and he has a team that he can grow with, create that style of play and have some success here.”
Targeted last year during free agency, Portland expressed great interest in his talents. Felton ultimately joined the New York Knicks, but not without carefully considering the Rose City who came in a close second.
Another major asset garnered by Felton, and a trait the Trail Blazers have been seeking, is his youth. Portland is now eight years younger at the starting point guard slot with a strong talent to build around.
“We’re really fortunate to have him added to our core moving forward,” Buchanan said. “We feel like he’s a player entering the prime of his career. Matches up with a lot of the guys on our roster as is and I think he’s gonna be a great fit for us.”
Continuing to shore up the guard position is rookie Nolan Smith, the 21st pick. A true combo-guard, Smith has the ability to play both the one and the two with confidence. McMillan plans to use his talents in the back-up point guard spot coupled with the off-guard.
“I think his versatility allows us to do a couple things,” McMillan said. “I think Smith can play with Felton, I think Smith can play with Brandon, he can play with Wesley. So he can play with the ball and he can also play off the ball. That should give us some versatility with him.”
Rounding out new additions is Jon Diebler, the 51st pick. As a three-point specialist—and the three-point leader in college basketball last year—Diebler brings consistency behind the arc. Already used to the NBA three-point distance, the Ohio St. grad is ready to fill the shoes left by Rudy Fernandez.
“All time leading scorer in Ohio high school basketball history,” Buchanan said. “One of the best shooters that we felt in this draft and very happy to get him where we selected him, so excited to add Jon.”
All three of the new players are touted as high-character guys, an important quality to the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland. With fit, skill and personality accounted for the changing of the guard in the Rip City is sure to bring success in the future.