NBA Draft: Finding the Oregon Trail, again


LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge and the Trail Blazers have some work to do.

I bet the Portland Trail Blazers wish they had Kevin Durant right now. The Trail Blazers have been plagued by injuries the past few seasons. Greg Oden was released earlier and Brandon Roy retired before the season due to knee injuries. They signed Jamal Crawford and traded for Raymond Felton on draft night. Both of those additions didn’t really work. Then, they fired head coach Nate McMillan mid-way through the season and to cap it off, they traded Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets for a first-round pick. So where do the Blazers go from here?

The nice thing the Blazers have going for them is they already have a star player in LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is the type of player you can build around and they have J.J. Hickson to back up Aldridge. They have shooting guard Wesley Matthews and small forward Nicolas Batum (provided they bring Batum back this season). Both of those players can shoot the ball from three-point range. They lack a point guard right now, with Felton and Jonny Flynn becoming free agents. I don’t expect one or both of them to be back next season. They don’t have a center, either. Hasheem Thabeet and Joel Pryzbilla are free agents and I doubt the Blazers will bring either one of them back. The rest of the roster is Elliot Williams (SG), Kurt Thomas (PF/C *may retire), Craig Smith (PF), Luke Babbitt (SF), and Nolan Smith (PG).

So how can the Blazers rebuild and still stay competitive in the Western Conference?

They have two first round picks (their own pick and they own the New Jersey Net’s pick from the Gerald Wallace trade *pick is top 3 protected). I think with their first pick (NJ’s pick) they should think big. And there might be no one bigger when they pick sixth than Connecticut’s André Drummond. Drummond under-achieved in his freshman season at Connecticut, but that doesn’t mean he can’t succeed in the NBA. He has a lot of potential and will bring a defensive presence on the interior that the Blazers lacked. He would solidify the center spot for the next X-amount of years and playing alongside Aldridge should help Drummond. If he is available at #6, the Blazers should take him. With their second first round pick, the Blazers should look at the available point guards. North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall would be a nice fit for this team. He isn’t a great offensive player, but he can set the table for his teammates. He is a pretty decent defender, too. I think Marshall would be a great fit for the Blazers. If they decide that point guard isn’t something they need, the Blazers should look at a shooting guard. Duke’s Austin Rivers would be a nice addition. Even though he didn’t perform to the level that everyone wanted him to at Duke, Rivers’ game is meant for the NBA. With their two second round picks, the Blazers should look to add depth to their small forward and center position. I know I mentioned Georgetown’s center Henry Sims as a possible draft pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but I think Sims would be a nice player for the Blazers.  Some possible small forwards for Portland are Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton or Memhpis’ Will Barton. Middleton would have been a first round pick last season, but he went back to A&M where he endured an injury-plagued season. Barton is a long, athletic wing player who is more of a two-guard but I can see him playing some small forward in the NBA.

If the Blazers don’t draft a point guard, they will have money to spend in free agency to get one. Goran Dragic is one that comes to my mind. He played really well for the Houston Rockets this past season, but the Rockets have Kyle Lowry, that is unless they think Dragic is their long-term solution. The Blazers should target Dragic. Some other free agent targets for the Blazers are Carlos Delfino (SF), Gerald Green (SF), Chris Kaman (C), Jameer Nelson (PG; player option), C.J. Miles (SG/SF).

Drafting Drummond and Marshall would be a good start for the Blazers in their rebuilding process.

But they still have a way to go.

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