Moving up, or moving out?
Kind of sounds like a Billy Joel song, but with the NBA Draft coming up later today, it is actually the question surrounding the Trail Blazers.
Portland owns the 21st and 51st pick, but selections that low rarely yield high-impact players — especially in a draft as weak as this year’s is perceived to be.
And considering Blazers coach Nate McMillan has expressed his desire to acquire established players, it is unlikely that the organization would be content should it fail to sign someone who can directly influence its annual win total.
So do the Blazers trade to move up on the draft board? Do they make a deal that brings them a veteran? Or do they simply stay put?
These are the speculation-inducing questions that make the draft one of the more intriguing days on the NBA calendar — and Portland rarely declines to contribute to the entertainment.
Last year, Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard was shockingly fired on draft day. Four years earlier, Pritchard somehow dealt the No. 4 pick in exchange for the Nos. 2 and 6 picks, which put LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy in Blazers jerseys. And then there was 2007, in which Portland selected Greg Oden, who was arguably the most anticipated rookie since LeBron James.
If this were a TV series, and the writers truly wanted to throw Blazers fans off, they would have Portland simply pick at 21 and 51. It just wouldn’t be a move consistent with the franchise’s character.
To boot, acting Blazers general manager Chad Buchanan has indicated that the team plans on being “aggressive.”
Might that mean parting ways with young-and-coveted forward Nicolas Batum to move up on the draft board? Could it mean shipping 35-year-old Andre Miller, whose $7.8 million contract next year is non-guaranteed, in exchange for a veteran point guard? Is it possible that a transaction today produces a Blazers roster absolutely nobody anticipated?
One never knows with the draft.
“This time of year around the league, it’s a lot of dialogue between teams,” said Buchanan, who will be in the “war room” of the team’s practice facility today. “We’ve been very aggressive reaching out to teams, and we’ve had a lot of calls. There’s a lot of interest in some of our players as you can imagine. A lot of dialogue. As you get closer to the draft, there’s a lot more serious talk. The offers get a little more concrete at that point.”
As for the rumors, those aren’t as concrete.
Names such as Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Monta Ellis and others have all been floated out there recently, but that’s not uncommon this time of year when teams are in full negotiation mode or websites are trying to garner page clicks.
Buchanan has offered nothing in terms of specific players the team might be eyeing but has been somewhat revealing when speaking more generally.
For one, he said that the Blazers are not interested in drafting any small forwards, a notion supported by the fact that they didn’t invite any to any recent workouts.
Secondly, he said that, should the team retain the 21st pick, it is down to “about five guys” on whom they would use the selection.
“I think we’re down to about three guards and we’ve got about two bigs that we like that are still in the mix for us,” Buchanan said.
It’s hard to imagine Morehead State product Kenneth Faried not being among those piquing Portland’s interest. The power forward averaged 14.5 rebounds per game last season and an array of mock draft boards have him going to the Blazers.
The team did wine and dine him the night before his workout, and Faried was seen chit-chatting in McMillan’s office afterward.
But as much as McMillan may enjoy Faried’s company, he might not necessarily want him on the team next season.
“Last year, we had three draft picks. I’d like to see us add some guys in their prime to the roster,” McMillan said earlier in the month. “We have young; we have old. Let’s see if we can get some guys in their prime.”
McMillan drew playful grief from reporters toward the end of the season when he responded to just about every speculative question with “we’ll see.”
Today, such a reply is as appropriate as ever.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org