Going into last night's NBA Draft, the Trail Blazers had four picks (Nos. 6, 11, 40, and 41) and two large needs to fill (Point Guard and Center). After
the dust had settled, Portland walked away with the draft's top rated point guard prospect in Weber State's Damian Lillard, the tallest player from the
Chicago draft combine in Illinois center Meyers Leonard (7-1) and a first-round talent in the middle of the second round in Memphis shooting guard, Will
Now that everyone has had a chance to sleep on it, the draft grades are being doled out. Are the Trail Blazers and Neil Olshey going to be happy with
their grades? If they go by Chad Ford's evaluation
, they'll have no problem showing off that report card. This one's
getting the refrigerator treatment.
The key statement Ford makes about Lillard is not that he'll need to improve his court vision. Nothing new there. It's the praise about the work
ethic Damian possesses which will always allow him to succeed that, as a Trail Blazers fan, instantly gets me smiling. Since the draft process really
started to heat up, it seems like everyone who had the chance to speak with to Dame came with the same feelings. And it was no different when our own
Digital Reporter, Casey Holdahl caught up with him
after his pre-draft workout
back on June 15th.
"Whenever I got frustrated in college about not getting respect and people saying he's not that good or something like that, I would always come back to
the gym," said Lillard. "Instead of getting mad about it, I just let the chip on my shoulder get bigger and I'd be in the gym putting in work. So
whenever the chance presented itself, when it was on the line, all of that work that I've been putting in, they would know 'He's the real
And the rave reviews for Damian Lillard don't stop at Chad Ford. NBATV's Greg Anthony had this to say
about Portland new point guard of the future.
"This guy is going to be ready to step in from day one and really help revamp this Portland franchise."
In regards to Meyers Leonard, Ford
isn't as excited
about this pick for the Trail Blazers as he was for Lillard.
"The Blazers needed size and Leonard was the biggest player in the draft at 7-foot-1. He's a very good athlete and he can be a good defender. He's a
project, but if he gets serious, he could be a nice big man down the road."
While Ford views him as a long-term project and doesn't believe he's nearly as ready to contribute as some would say, there's no denying he fills a need
in the Rose City. No longer should the Trail Blazers have to play center by committee. And the size. Meyers is massive. Standing at 7-1, he's a legit
center in the NBA and we all know the old says, "You can't teach size."
If you're still not sold on Leonard as being the right pick at No. 11, maybe a little reinforcement from Lillard can help. During his post-NBA Draft press
, GM Neil Olshey said that Lillard wanted the team to pick up Leonard at No. 11 if they selected himself at No. 6. If
Damian wants him in Rip City, that's more then enough for me.
Ford also mentioned that Leonard may have to "get serious" in order to fulfill his potential.The knock on Meyers at times has been an inconsistent motor
and inability to keep his
emotions in check. But Georgetown head coach, John Thompson III, whose been around some elite level big men throughout his basketball tenure, gave his thoughts
on dealing with
an emotional player.
"I would much rather have a player with energy, with emotion and try to pull that person back then always be trying to rev up that motor of
While Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard will receive the most hype and attention because they were both picked in the lottery, do not sleep on Will
Barton. Both Chad Ford
and Draft Express
had the Memphis two-guard going No. 29 overall in the first round and to acquire him with the 40th overall
pick is great value for the Trail Blazers.
Everyone knows Barton can score as evidenced by his 18.0 points per game (first in Conference USA) this past season at Memphis. But perhaps the
statistic that stands out most yet gets taken about the least are the 8 rebounds Barton grabs per game, which led the Tigers. If he's doing that much
damage on the glass as a 6-6 175 lb. Sophomore, just imagine the beast under the boards he'll become under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning
coach Bobby Medina.Finally, did anyone else catch that last line Ford wrote in his draft grades? In a few years, Ford wouldn't be shocked to see Will
Barton as the starting shooting guard. If that were to happen, he'd definitely go down as one of the all-tiem draft day gems.
For now, all we can do is speculation and hypothesize how these players will translate to the next level. Thankfully the wait to see them on the
hardwood won't be long. The Trail Blazers kick off the Las Vegas Summer League
, July 15th against Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and the New Orleans Hornets!