Calkins: Blazers’ lottery payoffs not great

Matt Calkins: Commentary




Now that the lottery is over, NBA teams are preparing for the real game of chance.

You can put weeks, months and years into preparing for the draft, but if there wasn’t an element of luck involved as well, you wouldn’t have players such as Manu Ginobili going late in the second round.

And believe it or not, as much playoff futility as the Blazers have experienced, they’ve only been in five draft lotteries. Their fans are probably hoping they’ve learned from their mistakes, because for the most part … it hasn’t gone well.

Here’s a look at their history.


Pick number: 13

Move: Drafted Brandon Rush, then traded him to Utah alongside Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts for Jerryd Bayless and Ike Diogu.

Grade: C

Consistently improving his 3-point percentage, Rush has emerged as one of the NBA’s top outside shooters in his four years in the league — an asset the Blazers have longed for. But the acquisition of Bayless netted Portland a first-round draft pick from New Orleans, which led to the signing of Gerald Wallace, which led to ownership of the Nets’ first round pick. So basically, in a sentence sponsored by Kevin Bacon — the Blazers traded Rush for the sixth pick in this year’s draft. Could be worse.


Pick number: 1

Move: Drafted Greg Oden

Grade: F

If we were to grade on a fantastical curve, in a world we could peer into the minds of all the other general managers that year, the Blazers would probably get a B. Even if Oden and Kevin Durant were a pair of redwoods among a draft class of pines, the big man was still the consensus No. 1 selection.

Still, when diners at the Blazers’ annual Harvest Dinner — a November event aimed at feeding Portland’s underserved — are asking executives in the food line why they passed on Durant … it probably wasn’t the best decision.


Pick number: 4

Move: Through a series of trades, acquired No. 2 pick LaMarcus Aldridge and No. 6 pick Brandon Roy.

Grade: A+

If Blazers executives wanted to, they could have pulled off Craig Sager suits, Gerald Wallace diamond studs, and Mr T. mohawks after this heist. As far as draft days go, calling this a masterpiece is not in the least bit hyperbolic.

It may not have had the long-term impact of say, the Lakers trading Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant, who was selected 13th by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. But besides Rajon Rondo, who went 21st, Aldridge and Roy have been the only selections from this class to make an All-Star team. If a previous sentence in this column was sponsored by Kevin Bacon, this draft was brought to you by David Blaine.


Pick number: 3

Move: Acquired Martell Webster, Linas Kleiza and a conditional pick from the Jazz in exchange for Deron Williams.

Grade: D-


The Oden debacle was kind of like a hard line drive that led to a triple play. A disastrous result? Sure. But few would argue with the swing. But passing on Deron Williams and Chris Paul for Martell Webster was the equivalent whiffing on ball four of an intentional walk.

Both point guards would go on to play in the 2008 Olympics, both have made multiple All-Star teams, and both may end up in the Hall of Fame.

Martell Webster? Well, like Mr. T, he has a mohawk as well. But nobody ever references a “Martell Webster mohawk.”


Pick number: 13

Move: Selected point guard Sebastian Telfair

Grade: D

The cousin of Stephon Marbury proved about as talented an NBA player as Marbury was a talk-show host. The star of a documentary and the focus of a Sports Illustrated cover, Telfair carried hype matched by few high school athletes. But raw ability never translated to impactful production in the best basketball league in the world, and two years after the Blazers drafted Sebastian, they traded him away.

Matt Calkins is the Trail Blazers beat writer for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or by e-mail