A few days ago if you would’ve asked me me this question, I would’ve said hell no, absolutely no chance. If we want him, it’ll be at #6.
That, of course, came before the rumor mill began whirling around with potential to shake up the NBA draft order in the lottery department. The latest trade rumors to develop certainly must be making Trail Blazers’ brand new GM Neil Olshey raise an eyebrow. Perhaps even both eyebrows. Yes, he is certainly taking media speculation with a grain of salt, but a pecking order draft night shift must be resting somewhere perched on the back of his mind…
Here’s a sample of the rumor involving the Toronto Raptors 8th overall pick, and the Houston Rockets’ desire to snatch it from them.
The motive: to have a nice juicy package to dangle in front of the Orlando Magic who will undoubtedly be in search of collecting Carmelo-esque value when they eventually part ways with Dwight the-I-wear-youth-size-unis Howard. Here’s the catch that would affect Blazer brass and the fans of Rip City: The Raptors would get a young, promising, yet veteran-savvy PG in Kyle Lowry. I am not entirely sky high on Lowry as a PG of the future, but as of right now, his contract is brilliant sitting at $12-million over the course of the next two years. BARGAIN! If the trade were to occur, the Blazers can entirely forget about competing in the Dragic sweepstakes—a guy I feel is already overrated—even though he tends to play his best ball in front of the raucous Rose Garden crowd. Unless we want to play our cards and pritch-slap a team again, that’s the closest we’d get to signing Dragic.
**The speculation of this Houston trade also weighs in on the possibility of the Sacramento Kings coming into play to acquire Lowry. I’ll explain below why that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense**
Where the direct correlation comes in with Olshey’s Blazers is the fact that the Raptors were one of two teams with top-10 picks realistically known to be looking for a point guard that can put points on the board. The spaniard Jose Calderon—who has spent the past seven seasons as the PG (five as starter) in Toronto—has not been the answer. Yes, he’s been solid, but at the age of 30 and at a $10.6-million clip (what he’ll make in the final year of his contract next season), Calderon is not thee guy that is going to break the Raptors free from the rest of the scoring cellar-dwellers of the league (Toronto averaged 90.7/ppg in 2011-12, good for 28th in the NBA). Calderon has a great handle on the game (an A-list assist/TO ratio, at 4.5, #1 in the league last year). Unfortunately for Calderon, he hasn’t developed into a poor man’s Nash with a scoring attack to pair with his tremendous ability to dish, all while taking care of the ball.
**Last five seasons for Calderon, points-per-game: 10.5; 9.8; 10.3; 12.8; 11.2**
The biggest knock on Calderon is the fact that in his seven seasons in the NBA, he’s only played a full 82-games just one single year. Not necessarily a reason to ax him or call him a bum, but a fantastic reason to add depth at the PG position moving forward. While Lillard would be a tremendous compliment to their roster, there would be little risk taking a guy like Lowry off Houston’s hands, a proven player with a strong drive in the paint (so long as his attitude is adjusted once he arrives at the Toronto Pearson Airport). Calderon and Lowry both could play on the court at the same time as well if the situation were to arise. If Lillard were to turn out to be a bust, the Raptors would only sink deeper in quicksand they are already standing in. Calderon could walk after the year wraps up, then they’d be left with slim pickings when it comes to a PURE point-guard (ahem-JBay).
So let’s say this trade does go down: Houston sends Lowry to Toronto for their 8th overall pick in the draft—could Lillard then slip to Portland at 11?
Taking a glance at Point Guard needs in the top-10
- New Orleans Hornets: We all know who they are selecting.
- Charlotte Bobcats: Seems very unrealistic they’d nab Lillard at this spot in a talent-rich draft, particularly at the SF position. Tough to find a franchise player on this roster, but seems they’d be taking a giant step backward drafting a PG after selecting Kemba Walker with the #9 overall pick just last year, along with DJ Augustine already at his side.
- Washington Wizards: The Dougie.
- Cleveland Cavaliers: The top rising PG in the game. Kyrie. Keep ‘em happy while it still lasts. Poor, poor Cleveland.
- Sacramento Kings: Where things begin to get interesting. I can’t imagine the Kings looking at a PG here. They have the filthy Husky Isaiah Thomas—who surprisingly made the [second-team] all-rookie squad last year despite being the final pick in the draft—as well as THE Jimmer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sac-Town make a move here, but instead at the SF position, parting ways with Tyreke Evans to upgrade perhaps at the PF position (stupid mistake IMO) and drafting a talented SF to replace the inconsistent Evans. A shooter? Evans being 20% from downtown is not cutting it as a SF starter in this league. Harrison Barnes, perhaps?
- Portland Trail Blazers: Would they HAVE to draft Lillard here? Hmmm… Let’s continue…
- Golden State Warriors: Where things start getting realllllly interesting. Lillard is a prototype for the Warriors’ erratic team structure dating all the way back to the Don Nelson days. Lillard is a Bay Area kid, straight out of Oaktown, which can be deemed as both a positive thing, and potentially a bad connection, as it forces him down a pipeline of pressure that comes along with hometown hype. I think it’d be a positive thing for Lillard to play at home—he is incredibly poised and has stated dozens of times that he has a low key personality, insisting he will stay focused off-the-court no matter where he ends up. Warrior fans loved the combo of Ellis-Curry playing the uptempo rat race style of ball, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take a stab at Lillard if the Blazers roll the dice and gamble on leaving him on the board. A most-talented-player-available type of selection. Dorell Wright has been decent the past two years (likely peaked) and Richard Jefferson is lost in no-man’s land at the SF. A PG seems like a sexy and rather typical acquisition, yet silly move for GSW moving forward.
- Houston Rockets via Toronto Raptors to Orlando Magic?: If the Rockets are able to pull this off as rumored/speculated, who would they draft? It really all depends on who the Magic are looking for, right? That is, if they are truly pushing full-steam ahead toward acquiring Dwight Howard (already owning picks #14 and #16 as of now). As we all know, the Magic have Jameer Nelson as their PG starter, but for how long? The Magic and Nelson—who has a player option on a $7.88-million deal for the upcoming season—both agreed to push his decision deadline back. No coincidence the date of the deadline falls the very next day after the draft, the 29th. Going shopping, are they? However, if the Rockets hold onto this pick after ousting Lowry, does it really make that much sense to draft Lillard, a guy with very similar intangibles to the surefire free agent signee Goran Dragic? I don’t see these two meshing well if that ends up being the case. Remember, Dragic is an unrestricted-FA, so it will be free reign for teams in need to drive up the demand/asking price on a guy like Dragic, who can be lights out shooting the rock, yet is still rather inconsistent at the age of 26. But hey—we used to say the same thing about Nash back when…How much $ will the cap-friendly Rockets be looking to invest at the two-deep PG position? A ton of question marks at the #8 spot.
- Detroit Pistons: No chance. At age 20, Brandon Knight stands alone. Period.
- New Orleans Hornets: I’m completely torn with this one. Jarrett Jack resurrected his career arriving in Naw’lins with his career best season, at 15.6/6.3/4. That is a phenomenal stat line when we are talking bang-for-your-buck, at $5.6-million. Jack will enter a contract year—still only 28—looking to lock up a starting role perhaps for a few more years to come for the Hornets. The Hornets also have Greivis Vasquez locked up under a rookie contract until the 2013-14 season when a team option becomes available. When you are talking about a cash-strapped (cash-cautious?) franchise under brand new ownership, I could see Paul Allen pulling a straight-cash-homie move, moving up to the 10th spot if we are worried the Hornets want to add Lillard to a rock solid backcourt next to Jack. I mean, Vasquez is 6’6” he can play something other than PG, right? I can’t see the Hornets passing up on a SG if a desirable player is still on the board. If it’s indeed true that Eric Gordon has B-Roy knees, the Hornets are going to need to address their SG depth immediately, only with Belinelli (the sharp shooter) left to fill that hole. They do have Xavier Henry, a first-rounder from last year’s draft—another youngster who can flat out shoot it—but it’s tough to be sold on him 100% as of yet.
- Portland Trail Blazers: So we arrive… Considering the complexities stated above, it’s going to be extremely interesting to see what is still available at pick #Sabas. It’d be a shame missing out on the talent available at #6, if we somehow could predict Lillard to be left hanging around at #11.
One of the major questions always entering a draft: what is the ratio of risk vs. reward? Usually we are talking about a player’s upside, his potential. With this type of risk vs. reward scenario, we are talking about having a poker face, and trying to read the minds of the GM’s across the league with leverage standing in line in front of us. If Portland can somehow nab Lillard at #11, it will certainly be the steal of the draft without a question, but doing so is going to take some crafty technique, some giant brass balls, and in all honesty—some major luck. I’d say these odds are fairly slim and unrealistic to bank on, but definitely a simulation Olshey must be playing out in the endless array of what-if scenarios. It’s a new dawn, Blazer fans.
Rip City, Sco’pe!
click on images for photo cred
25 June 2012