During the Kevin Pritchard era, the NBA Draft was like Christmas morning for Blazers fans. Tyco racing set, Nicolas Batum, Dyno GT dirt bike, Rudy Fernandez... with a slick GM and a deep pocketed owner, Portland was the envy of the NBA and the Blazers faithful couldn't get enough. Of course, as we all know, those days are a thing of the past. Last year's lackluster draft night, and unceremonious canning of Pritchard, was proof that the party was over.
In a series of lateral (at best) moves, the GM-less Blazers were very active during tonight's NBA draft, shipping off one starter (Andre Miller), one key role player (Rudy Fernandez), a token Finnish guy (Petteri Kopone), one draft pick (Jordan Hamilton) and some guy from Qatar who no one in the world knows anything about (Tanguy Ngombo). In return, the Blazers traded for Raymond Felton, and drafted Nolan Smith and Jon Diebler.
Felton will now be the point guard of the future, although he only has a single season left under contract. As did Miller, for less money, so it's a curious move for the Blazers. Felton has suffered on some poor teams (Larry Brown's offensively inept Charlotte Bobcats) and benefitted from playing on some others (Mike D'Antoni's Knicks), but it's hard to think he'll be drastically better, or worse, than Miller. One advantage is his outside shooting, which isn't amazing, but it sure beats Miller's lifeless heave from three-point territory. Felton also stays relatively healthy, which is a plus on a team known for injuries (to everyone but Miller). Portland was well aware that Miller's best days were behind him and they went with a younger player with a similar skill set. It's not Chris Paul, but when compared to the sadness parade of former Blazers starting point guards (Sebastian Telfair, Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack), it's a vast improvement. It will be interesting to see how Felton meshes with Brandon Roy, whose inability to play with Miller was a matter of serious concern for Portland.
Duke's Nolan Smith might be molded into a starter some day, but it remains to be seen if he has what it takes to be more than a backup point guard in the NBA. Throw him on the pile with Armon Johnson, Elliot Williams, and Patty Mills (who the Blazers probably won't re-sign). I hope I'm wrong, especially since the Blazers ignored all logic and passed on Kenneth Faried to select Smith.
Jon Diebler is a white guy who doesn't have the frame to compete in the NBA, but he shoots the ball well (Luke Babbitt alert). Actually, Diebler was superior to Babbitt, and most everyone in college, when it came to hitting from distance. Considering he was selected with the 51st pick in a historically bad draft, it's tough to expect a lot from Diebler, but if he can find a way to remain calm and hit his shoots during games (unlike Babbitt), he might see some minutes here and there. I guess he's the new Rudy.
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