As the 2012-13 NBA season gears up, so too do the previews and offseason retrospectives, which NBA bloggers often like to do as collaborations. Ahead of the Blazers’ two upcoming matchups with the Utah Jazz, which close out their preseason, I answered a few questions about the team for Amar Smith (whom you should be following on Twitter at @AllThatAmar) for SB Nation’s Jazz blog, SLC Dunk. Among the topics discussed: Damian Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the connections between the Jazz and several players on the Blazers’ roster.
[Ronnie] Price isn’t really in danger of not making the roster. He’s sitting out the preseason with a minor ankle injury, but he’s pretty safely entrenched in the backup point guard role. I’m fine with him in that spot (the alternative is Nolan Smith, whom I’ve never really forgiven for being drafted instead of Kenneth Faried, and also he sucks) but before he got hurt, I was kind of concerned by Terry Stotts’ insistence on playing him and Lillard together in the backcourt with Lillard playing off the ball. Seemed counterproductive to developing Lillard as the Point Guard Of The Future.
We should probably back up a second and talk about this whole notion that Kevin Pritchard was a draft-day genius during his time in Portland. The Roy and Aldridge trades in 2006 were his masterpiece, and the Oden pick obviously made sense at the time, even if hindsight has made it look like Bowie-over-Jordan. But the only other good pick he made in his five drafts as Blazers GM was Nicolas Batum at No. 25 in 2008. The rest of his drafting track record in Portland is littered with Luke Babbitts, Sergio Rodriguezes, and Armon Johnsons. More than being nostalgic for Pritchard, I wish Rich Cho had been given the chance to conduct a draft before Paul Allen cut him loose too.
I have no complaints about what Olshey did on draft day. Lillard was was the obvious pick at No. 6, and everything I’ve seen from him since then backs that up. Like you, I kind of thought he’d go with Tyler Zeller at 11. And while I think he’s looked better than Leonard at Summer League and during the preseason, I’m pretty high on what Meyers could become eventually, and I can’t fault Olshey for drafting a 7-1 guy with his athleticism and mobility.
But what isn’t being talked about is that Olshey is setting the Blazers up to be able to do the same sort of asset-stockpiling they did under Pritchard. He very quietly picked up a future second-round picks and two Greek prospects this summer in the sign-and-trade that sent Raymond Felton to the Knicks. He corralled another second-rounder for facilitating the Rockets’ trade of Courtney Lee to the Celtics. Like Pritchard’s acquisition of Rudy Fernandez, he didn’t give up much, if anything, to get these picks and players. And whether or not any of the pan out for the Blazers is irrelevant.—they’re just more chips he can use in future trades.