Portland's Draft Plans In Limbo

        Heading into the NBA Draft Lottery later this month (May 30th), the Portland Trail Blazers are looking to be in very good shape to restructure their roster after missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. The Trail Blazers hold potentially two lottery picks after acquiring New Jersey's/Brooklyn's mid-way through the season that is top three protected and hold a 90 percent chance that they'll keep the pick as well as their own later in the lottery. So what direction will the team go in?

        All-Star caliber power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and swingman Wes Matthews are the only long-term staples in the lineup, so Portland needs to look at filling three main positions: center, a wing and a point. But in the past few drafts, management has used their late-round pick on a combo-guard like Elliot Williams of Memphis, Nolan Smith of Duke and even Armon Johnson from Nevada (and has since been traded). There's potential that international forwards Joel
Freeland, a first-round pick in '06, and Victor Claver, a first-rounder in 2009, could come over and shore up the frontcourt, which would eliminate the need for the front office to look small and power forward this season.

        Starting point Ray Felton is a free agent, as well as backup Jonny Flynn who was also acquired mid-season. In the lottery, point guards Damian Lillard from Weber State and UNC's Kendall Marshall should be available and despite drastically different styles of play, both would be a good fit as a distributor in Portland. Lillard is more of a scorer than pure point at this stage, but overall is a very good athlete with good potential. Marshall, on the other hand, is just a mediocre athlete, but produces the best court vision of any guard prospect in college or international basketball, excelled by way of great craftiness with the ball in his hands, specifically in the open floor.

        The other major need regardless of Freeland/Claver or the re-signing of Batum, is a low-post center. Aldridge playing power forward can dominate in the paint or step outside and knock down the mid-range jumper, but is best suited defensively matching-up with other 4s, not true 5s. Depending on how the lottery balls fall, Portland is taking deep looks at Andre Drummond, the UConn freshman center, Tyler Zeller, a high motor and skilled 7-footer in the low post, but the real surprise here is the Trail Blazers are also looking into Syracuse's Fab Melo; Melo was the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year, but was suspended amidst concerns with his academics. He certainly has his risks as he isn't well-developed offensively, but neither is Drummond, however, Drummond is a tremendous athlete given his height and muscular build.

        There's always the possibility that Portland looks to a wing to fill the potential void of free agent Nicolas Batum with the likes of Jeremy Lamb, sweet-shooting UConn 2-guard or even a high-risk/high-reward pick like Baylor's Perry Jones III to fill up the small forward spot.

        Look for more information here moving forward in the individual and group workouts regarding Portland's prospects.

By President Corey Ruff - 5 - 16 - 12