The Portland Trail Blazers were in contention for a playoff berth in the Western Conference for the first half of the 2012-13 season. However, the Blazers’ struggles on defense and their lack of depth caught up with them the second half of the season. With LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard, the Blazers have a solid core group and are only a player or two away from having a team that could make the jump into the playoffs next season.
Portland has the No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 draft will likely find one of their top targets available. The Blazers struck gold last year in finding Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard with the No. 6 overall pick. While the Blazers may not be picking as high as they did last year, Portland will be keen on finding a player to contribute to the talented group of starters in Rip City.
Portland will have options at the No. 10 pick. The Blazers do not have any glaring needs, but with starting center J.J. Hickson expected to test the free-agent market, one has to the think the Blazers have their eye on a number of big men in the upcoming draft.
Aside from big men, the Blazers will likely target a backup point guard with one of their four 2013 draft picks. The Blazers leaned heavily on superstar rookie Damian Lillard in 2012-13 and would like to add another quality guard in the backcourt rotation.
Let’s take a look at five of the players that could be a good fit for the Portland Trail Blazers in the upcoming NBA draft:
Cody Zeller, C
Cody Zeller continues to be linked to the Portland Trail Blazers at the No. 10 pick in the draft. Zeller is not projected to slip outside top 10 after the results of his workout at the NBA combine. Zeller impressed scouts as he showcased his standing 35.5-inch vertical and blazing speed in the open court (Zeller ran the three-quarter-court sprint in 3.15 seconds, comparable to a time that guards typically run).
Zeller is appealing for a Blazers team that is in need of a true center to play alongside LaMarcus Alrdridge. Zeller averaged 16.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Indiana Hoosiers. Zeller has the ability to contribute right away and plays well with his back to basket for a college player. Zeller is rumored to be a target of the Trail Blazers and they will seriously consider drafting him if he is available when they are on the clock.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has ascended up NBA draft boards and will likely find himself a lottery pick on June 27. Caldwell-Pope won the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year award despite playing on a very average Georgia team. Caldwell-Pope was the focus of opposing defenses and still improved his shooting in every key statistical category from his freshman year.
Caldwell-Pope averaged 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds from the shooting guard position. Caldwell-Pope is a 6’6” athletic guard who already has NBA range. The Blazers are in need of backcourt depth and if Caldwell-Pope is still available he would provide Portland with a much needed weapon off the bench and could be an eventual starter.
C.J. McCollum, PG
The Trail Blazers took a chance on a guard who excelled at a small school last year in the draft and it worked out pretty well as Damian Lillard ran away with the Rookie of the Year award. C.J. McCollum may have played at Lehigh, but you cannot ignore 23.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. McCollum led 15th-seeded Lehigh to an upset of heavily favored Duke in the Round of 64 in the 2012 NCAA tournament, scoring 30 points with six rebounds and six assists.
McCollum was recently cleared from a broken foot that cost him more than half of his senior season. By all accounts he has been impressive in workouts, showing the explosion that he possessed prior his injury in January. There are questions as to whether McCollum will be a point guard or shooting guard in the NBA, but the talent he has displayed will make it unlikely that he slips past Portland.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG
Michael Carter-Williams’ stats from his senior season do not jump off the page–11.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Carter-Williams does jump off the screen when you watch him play. At 6′ 6”, Carter-Williams is an over-sized point guard with excellent court vision who can score from anywhere on the court.
At athletic point guard with size and court vision is exciting for general managers who view Carter-Williams as an athlete with tremendous upside. Carter-Willliams’ stock has improved to the point where he may not be available when Portland is on the clock with the No. 10 pick. If Carter-Williams is available then Portland may find his talent and upside to intriguing to pass up.
Steven Adams, C
If the Blazers find Michael Carter-Williams, Cody Zeller, C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope off the board on June 27, they may turn to Pittsburgh center Steven Adams. Adams is a 7’0” athletic center who could immediately help one of the worst rebounding teams in 2012-13. Adams is only 19 years old and played only one season at Pittsburgh. Adams is physically ready for the NBA, but he is not as polished or developed as Cody Zeller. Some scouts felt that Adams may have benefited from another year in college and his contributions during his rookie season may be limited.
The appeal with Steven Adams is the upside he possesses if he were to improve his footwork, free-throw shooting and offensive feel for the game. A center with the size, upside and work ethic that Adams has will be intriguing to a Portland team in desperate need of frontcourt help. Adams averaged 7.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in his only season at Pittsburgh.
Other possible Portland draft picks for the Trail Blazers include centers Alex Len and Rudy Gobert and guard Shabazz Muhammad.
Tags: Portland Trail Blazers