The knock on the Portland Trail Blazers for many years has been its interior toughness. Despite great height and lengthy wingspans, the blazers have put together a line-up that lacks the overall girth to be dominant on the boards. Marcus Camby is a good defender and has averaged over ten rebounds per game since being in a blazer uniform, yet a large portion of his rebounds are tipped back out to restart the offense, and not in a way that is attacking the rim. LaMarcus Aldridge has moments where he goes to the hoop and is aggressive. Those are the moments in which he is at his best. He stays aggressive and forces defenders to play the drive instead of standing around waiting for LaMarcus to take the 15-20 foot jump shot. On this Blazer team, where is the Brian Grant? Where is this generation's Buck Williams or Mark Bryant? The lack of Blazer toughness can be attributed to one thing: The Portland Trail Blazers ineptness in the NBA draft after 2006.
In the 2006 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to get both LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy during draft day trades. Aldridge, drafted second overall by Chicago and traded to Portland for fourth overall pick Tyrus Thomas and forward Viktor Khryapa (Khryapa was out of the league by the end of the 2008 season). Roy was drafted by Minnesota sixth overall, then quickly traded to Portland for Randy Foye, seventh overall. After that trade was a series of draft-day blunders that have changed the shape of the franchise for years to come.
The Blazers acquired the rights to Sergio Rodriguez for cash, yet refused to trade him at his peak, when his return would have netted a first-round pick at a minimum. Joel Freeland (30) and James White (31) were drafted by the Blazers, chosen over current Blazer Craig Smith (36) and Utah starting forward Paul Millsap (47) in 2006. 2007 brought us Greg Oden over Kevin Durant, though that pick is forgivable. That same year Portland traded for Rudy Fernandez, another hot commodity whose potential never surfaced in a Blazer uniform, eventually traded for not even one-quarter of his peak value. In that draft, Josh McRoberts was chosen by the Blazers eleven spots before future All-Star Marc Gasol (48). 2009
The only bright spot on Portland's draft resume post-2006 was acquiring Nicolas Batum in the 2008 draft. History has shown though that with valuable assets, the Blazers have shown a propensity to keep high and sell low.
The most glaring of the Blazers ineptitude in big men has come in 2009 and 2011. With the co-Big East player of the year in Dejuan Blair still available, the Blazers chose length in 6-10 Jeff Pendergraph over the undersized 6-8 Blair. As of this writing Pendergraph is the 12th man on the Indiana Pacers averaging 3.8 minutes per game in 2012, and Blair, well, Blair is averaging 9.7 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game on the San Antonio Spurs. He is also set to take over as starting power forward when future Hall-Of-Famer Tim Duncan decides to retire.
Name me a Mock Draft service, and that service will tell you who the Blazers were going to pick in 2011. The assumption was that the Blazers lacked toughness, and that one man out of any other in the draft could provide Portland with the toughness they were in such dire need of. That man was Kenneth Faried. Another undersized forward, he led Morehead State of the Ohio Valley COnference to a first-round upset of Louisville in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Faried would be a great fit for Portland. If he made it down to Portland selecting at 21, the Blazers would jump at the chance to draft him and cement him in as the back-up power forward, the perfect complement to the outside/in game of Aldridge. When Faried fell into their lap, the Blazers did something even more amazing. They chose someone else. Nolan Smith, a guard from Duke was chosen because of his leadership skills, his knowledge of the game, and managements' belief that he would be able to play the point guard position in the NBA. Faried was chosen one selection later by the Denver Nuggets.
Looking at Tuesday's boxscore around the league shows the truth. Dejuan Blair, 22 minutes, 9 points, 9 rebounds. Kenneth Faried, 17 minutes, 13 points, 10 rebounds (7 offensive).
Jeff Pendergraph (2/28/2012), 6 minutes, 2 points, 2 fouls. Nolan Smith, Did Not Play--Coaches Decision.