Hard to Know How Portland Could Have Done Better

June, 29, 2006
6/29/06
4:31
PM ET
I had a little IM conversation yesterday with Nate Jones. He was saying that Danny Ainge had fleeced the Blazers with the Sebastian Telfair trade. I said, hopefully, that if the Blazers got Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge out of the draft, then I would be happy. He said we'd have to be lucky to get those guys.

I didn't even know if the Blazers wanted those guys. But I did.

Now that they got them? I can't be anything but thrilled, really.

One of my big concerns of last night was giving up Viktor Khyrapa, a player I really like. He plays hard, he's long, and he doesn't make mistakes. Chicago wasn't really going to take LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers, it seemed, could have picked him fourth and kept Khyrapa. But here's the thing: other teams that wanted Aldridge were, as the story goes, also vying for Chicago's pick. (Can anyone tell me who that was?) The Blazers had to outbid them.

I could still argue that the Blazers could have called their bluff. The Bulls wanted Tyrus Thomas, and had the fourth pick. If Chicago made a deal with someone picking lower than Portland, the Blazers could have still taken Thomas in spite. Basically, the Blazers had the power to keep Chicago from their guy. They could have wielded it.

Chad Ford reports that tactic is exactly how they got Roy:
...I like the way they maneuvered to get him. The Blazers caught wind of the Wolves' plan to take Roy and trade him to the Rockets. So Portland drafted the guy the Wolves wanted, Randy Foye, forcing the Wolves to send Roy to Portland for Foye.
But that's all hypothetical. They got the guys they wanted. Enough said. All the downsides are well worth it. I wonder if this somehow means Kevin Pritchard is the new GM and Paul Allen will stay on as owner.

UPDATE More thoughts:

  • One risky PR thing about the Blazers' many trades: they have now owned the rights, albeit breifly, to Tyrus Thomas, Randy Foye, James White, and Alexander Johnson. When some or all of those become INCREDIBLE players, the Blazers will be second-guessed for what happened yesterday.
  • An important thing Steve Patterson said: the philosophy is guys who can defend and shoot. That sounds good. But when you're collecting shooters, to me you need a maestro. A Steve Nash. A wizard to constantly draw doubles and then find the open man. Jarrett Jack, Steve Blake, and Dan Dickau are solid, but none strike me as that maestro. With luck, maybe that's where Spanish Chocolate fits in. Check the highlights.
  • Steve Patterson interviewed during the draft (MP3). He says they wanted Aldridge or Bargnani and Roy. They liked Khyrapa, but thought he was a seventh or eighth man. Aldridge could be  a star. Martell Webster reacts (MP3). Paul Allen reacts. Bunch more here.
  • In the moments after the pick, LaMarcus Aldridge was asked a whole bunch of questions about playing for Philadelphia. (These are three of the four questions from the official transcript: I understand you'll be going to the Philadelphia 76ers. How do you see yourself fitting in with guys like Iverson and Igoudala? Did you have any inkling this was going to happen with the 76ers and what was your reaction?  Last season the Philadelphia 76ers had problems with defense and rebounding. Is that a strong part of your game, is that something that you can bring to the table as well?) Guess that might have been the other team in the mix.

The Blazers were ripped by ESPN all night, but here's all the reception I have found online today:

Dick Vitale gives Portland an A, but you knew he would because they took the two poster children of NCAA basketball.

John Canzano:
Draft day was a good day for the Blazers --- the best in some time. I know. I know. They won 21 games last year, and ended up in a fight over the home arena, but still. The franchise did good on a day they could have blown it...

Initially I bristled at the thought of giving up Viktor Khryapa while moving from No. 4 to No. 2 to draft a player (Lamarcus Aldridge) who would be available at No. 4 anyway. Later, I found out that Chicago had other offers for No. 2, and the Blazers simply decided they needed to get there at all costs.

I think Khryapa will do good things for Chicago. And coach Nate McMillan will miss him. So will some fans. But again, sometimes you do what you need to do.
Dan Wetzel, a writer I admire, and who likes the Blazers' moves, trots out every stupid line ever about Portland. Dan: present your evidence the current roster is full of stoners or bad guys, or never do this again.

Whit Watson:
The Portland Trail Blazers (2006 motto: "Please Stop Hating Us!") were all over the draft board, swinging deals to land LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, and Sergio Rodriguez (nickname: Spanish Chocolate. Really). All of this after a pre-draft trade that moved Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff to Boston in exchange for Dan Dickau and Raef LaFrentz. The motivation is obvious. Everything about this team is acidic; an overhaul was in order. Aldridge and Roy are off-the-charts prospects, while Dickau and LaFrentz are pedestrian NBA players capable of occasional breakout games but (hopefully) incapable of getting themselves arrested. Morrison would have been the crowning achievement of the Blazers' PR offensive, but with that option removed, landing two college kids that everyone loves and two veterans who won't bother anybody is a smart play.

Brian McCormick:
I'm not enamored with Portland, but I'm certainly not going to criticize their efforts. So what if they traded away Victor Khryapa to get Lamarcus Aldridge? Did anyone ever think that maybe Portland wanted to clear him off the roster?

They traded Sebastian Telfair, who I really like, but who does not fit with Nate McMillan at all. If I'm Portland, I am not high on acquiring Raef LaFrentz, but I thought Brandon Roy was the #1 pick, and they got him at #7. They also acquired 3 second round selections, Sergio Rodriguez and Joel Freeland. Some felt Rodriguez was the #1 or #2 point guard in the draft and Freeland is a kid who they can leave in Europe for a couple years and allow La Liga to serve as its minor league.
Mike Tokito:
If anything was going to change Paul Allen's mind about selling the team, Wednesday's draft-day action would be it. McMillan and Patterson both said Allen was totally into the wheeling and dealing, and the owner did everything he could to make sure the team got what it wanted.

"It was an amazing thing to be in the room with a man who has the passion and commitment that he has, not only financially, but emotionally," Patterson said.

************
A few members of the "Draft the 'stache" campaign did march-and-chant lap around the Blazers' draft compound, but their movement by then seemed dead to most inside, especially with the flurry of deals.

After the draft, Patterson said Charlotte had locked in on Morrison at No. 3. And really, as good a fit as Morrison would have been, Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge together easily trump just Morrison. Roy brings in the same regional tie that Morrison had, and both Roy and Aldridge are considered at least Morrison's equal in the character department.
Chad Ford gives Portland an "A" and says Roy is the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year:
They started the night with the No. 4, No. 30 and No. 31 picks. They ended it with LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Raef LaFrentz, Joel Freeland and Sergio Rodriguez... Paul Allen needs to give the GM job permanently to Kevin Pritchard. He earned it on Wednesday.
Sactown Royalty:
Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for the Portland Trailblazers. ESPN owes that franchise some ad revenue. Holy crap.
David Friedman:
Steven A. Smith completely ripped the Portland Trail Blazers but I don't understand why he did not ask a direct question of Blazers President Steve Patterson when Patterson appeared on the telecast via satellite. Portland has clearly made some questionable moves in the past, but they got rid of undersized point guard Sebastian Telfair and obtained LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, either of whom conceivably could turn out to be the best player in this year's draft. Portland also acquired Raef LaFrentz and Dan Dickau while shipping away Theo Ratliff and Victor Khryapa. It seems unfair and misguided for Smith to criticize these deals three seconds after they have transpired when there is a decent chance that these moves actually helped Portland. Ratliff is a quality shotblocker but Portland hardly gave up the house to get Aldridge and Roy. Smith's verbal broadsides against Portland came across as the proverbial "shoot, ready, aim" style of analysis. Just because ESPN made a movie about Telfair does not mean that he will be a great NBA player.

David DuPree of USA Today:
The Portland Trail Blazers were the big winners in Wednesday's NBA draft as they wheeled and dealed their way to a series of moves that resulted in them landing four players in the first round.

This is a major step as the franchise tries to repair its tattered image and waning popularity. "A lot of great things happened for us tonight," Trail Blazers President Steve Patterson said.

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