Blazers mull options with four picks




For the Portland Trail Blazers, Draft night has typically been documented in extremes:

There’s the glorious.

And there’s the infamous.

They have passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams to pick Martell Webster. They used sorcery to transform a No. 4 pick into the drafting of LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy in the same season.

And then there was Greg Od…

Well, you know the rest.

How posterity will view Thursday night’s selection is as debatable as ever, especially given the conflicting views on how this draft will play out.

What we know is that Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is a lock to go No. 1, while the overwhelming majority of mock drafts have Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Bradley Beal (Florida), Michael Kidd Gilchrist (Kentucky), and Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) going 2-5 in an unpredictable order.

Portland picks next at No. 6, and also holds the No. 11 selection.

Pros and cons of players the team is likely targeting in today’s draft:

Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State

Pros: Athletic guard who sees the floor well and averaged 24.5 points a game while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point distance in his senior year at Weber State. He’s a high-character guy by most all accounts, too, and of all the prospects who came to Tualatin, Ore., for a workout at the Blazers practice facility, has seemed to have made the best impression on the Blazers front office so far.

Cons: While his four years at Weber State may make him more NBA-ready than others, it is rare that elite talents spend four years in college these days. Moreover, his playing at Weber State may have inflated his stock as he avoided constant exposure to the country’s best teams.

Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut

Pros: Possibly the most physically and athletically gifted big man in the draft — and that includes Anthony Davis. Drummond’s 6-foot, 10-inch body can do things perhaps no center short of Dwight Howard can do. Now, it is just a matter of the Draft’s youngest entrant fulfilling that potential.

Cons: Most people do not think he’s all that interested in fulfilling said potential. Sometimes when you’ve been the best your whole life, you do not feel the need to put in the effort, and it’s no secret that Drummond’s work ethic and “motor” has been skewered by reporters and bloggers alike.

Austin Rivers, PG, Duke

Pros: Perhaps the most confident player in the Draft, the son of Doc Rivers proved to be a reliable scorer in his lone season with the Blue Devils, averaging 15.5 points a game. If someone else nabs Lillard before Portland, the Blazers may eye him.

Cons: Rivers averaged a lot of points, but only 2.1 assists, and never came off as a pass-first point guard. This could be an issue given how his is at easily the deepest position in the league.

Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina

Pros: Runs the floor exceptionally well for a 7-footer, and has shown the ability to finish. The reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year spiked his stock with an impressive senior campaign, and seems to constantly add to and modify his game.

Cons: Though improving in the paint, Zeller does not have stellar post moves and desperately needs to improve his ability to pass out of double teams. Could also use some fine-tuning defensively.

Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois

Pros: Upside, upside, and more upside. Standing 7-1, the 20-year-old demonstrated near unrivaled athleticism during his two years with the Illini, displaying flashes of star potential as a sophomore.

Cons: Key word: Flashes. Defensively, Leonard’s athleticism makes him NBA ready, but he is very much a project on the offensive end, where his post-game’s versatility falls well short of his potential.

Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina

Pros: Everything Austin Rivers is not, Kendall Marshall is. In his sophomore season at UNC, Marshall averaged an astounding 9.7 assists a game, which was second in the nation and first among players from major conferences.

Cons: Everything Austin Rivers is, Kendall Marshall is not. Marshall averaged just 8.1 points a game for the Tar Heels last year, and scores the second-fewest points per 40 minutes among all 2012 prospects in Draft Express’ database.

Jared Sullinger, PF/C, Ohio State

Pros: One of, if not the most polished offensive players in the draft. Last year, many projected Sullinger to be one of the top two picks if he declared himself eligible. But he still came back to average 17.5 points for the Buckeyes while shooting 52 percent from the field and 40 percent from deep.

Cons: He probably should have gone pro last year. Sullinger’s stock dropped as his lack of athleticism was exposed, and plummeted due to the appearance of “medical red flags” during this process. The Blazers, well, they have been there and done that.

Perry Jones, PF, Baylor

Pros: He is long. He is athletic. And like a Drummond or a Leonard, seems to have the potential to make a big-time impact. Maybe the best forward out of this draft.

Cons: Being the best forward out of this draft isn’t saying much. Jones’ statistics have yet to be commensurate with his natural-talent level, and his passivity may have much to do with that. Tentativeness is not a desirable or fruitful quality in the best basketball league in the world.

Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse

Pros: He averaged 12.6 points in just 24 minutes a game as a sophomore with the Orange last year, and has been compared to Dwyane Wade by more than one analyst. Waiters can get to the rim better than any guard in the draft, and in the right system where he gets a high amount of touches, could make a difference rather immediately.

Cons: Not a great shooter, and not known as the most coachable player — and like stars with knee problems, the Blazers are probably more likely to shy away from potential “cancers” due to past experiences.

Terrence Ross, SG, Washington

Pros: He can shoot. He can move. He can play multiple positions — which means he can guard multiple positions. Ross, who is local to Portland, averaged 16.4 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Huskies last year.

Cons: Not a great ballhandler, which is a necessary skill for a player who is only 6-7. As a result, Ross struggles to get to the rim compared to other potential first-round guards.

Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky

Pros: Another Portland native, Jones’ size, athleticism, perimeter game and shot-blocking ability suggest he has the tools to be a consistent NBA starter. He also made a rare return trip to Kentucky for his sophomore year, which may have enhanced his game.

Cons: Or, it may not have had enhanced his game, which worries scouts. There were times when Jones looked indifferent on the basketball court — his body language suggesting he did not care. You can have all the talent in the world, but desire is almost as hard to teach as height.

Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut

Pros: He’s long, he can score from wayyyy outside, he averaged 17.7 points a game, and like many players in this draft, has an almost limitless upside.

Cons: That ability to score from waayyy outside, well, sometimes he relies on that too much, and he needs a little work in the weight room. Still, if Lillard is gone by the time the Blazers pick, Lamb could very much be in the conversation.

John Henson, PF, North Carolina

Pros: He can score (13.7 points a game at UNC last year), he can rebound (9.9 rpg) and at 6-foot-10, can block shots, a skill he showcased by doing so 2.9 times per game last season.

Cons: Yeah, he’s 6-foot-10… but he’s 216 pounds. We have seen skinny players such as Marcus Camby make an impact, but we have also seen guys like Chris Johnson who are more or less relegated to the bench.

Arnett Moultire, PF, Mississippi State

Pros: At 6-11, possesses enviable length that he utilized last year to average 18.3 points for Mississippi State. He also is an excellent rebounder, and demonstrated a capacity for improvement by upping his free-throw percentage from 65 percent as a sophomore to 87 percent as a transfer junior.

Cons: Still needs to get stronger, and really needs how to learn how to play help defense and be a factor defensively. Despite his height, Moultrie averaged 0.8 blocks a game last year.

Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s

Pros: He’s long and athletic like so many of his peers in this draft, and managed to average 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds with St. John’s last year.

Cons: Lacks a solid perimeter game, which is excusable for someone in college who’s 6-9, but not so much in the pros.