Blazers The Usenet draft does not have an official second round.   What we do is let the teams that do not have a first round pick have a say in the draft.  The 9th of the "second round' goes to the Portland Trailblazers (who traded their first round pick to Atlanta via Detroit).  In the real draft, the Blazers do not have a pick. Their GM is  Rob Doyle, who selects:

Vonteego Cummings, PG, 6'1", Pittsburgh

1: Team Needs/History

Quite simply, the Trailblazers are set to make a strong run for the title in the 99-00 season with the roster that they already have. They have twelve players under contract for next season, each capable of large contributions, and most qualified enough to start. The Blazers only have three free agents, Jermaine O'neal being the only one of value. Reserve guard Brian Shaw's one-year contract has expired, and there is little room on the roster to re-sign him. Gary Grant will also become a free agent, but he was of little importance to the Blazers the past season. O'neal will draw strong interest around the league, and will probably find more money elsewhere.

There are no positions on the roster that are desperately needed to be filled. The one spot that could be of some use to the Blazers is finding a new center to step-in for Sabonis when his legs can't take the pounding anymore, but there will be no centers available this late in the fan draft who are good enough to be eventual starters for a playoff team. Until the Blazers come across a top center in the free agent market or in a future draft, former Iowa State Cyclone Kelvin Cato should be a capable reserve, with guys like Brian Grant and Raheed Wallace capable of playing center when both teams move to smaller lineups.

The Blazers are at least two-deep at every position, due largely to wise moves in free agency. Last summer the Blazers picked-up shooting guard Jim Jackson under a three-year contract, and the year before, the Blazers signed Sacramento King Brian Grant to a seven year deal, although Grant can opt out after next season. The front office pulled off the Gary Trent-Kenny Anderson-Alvin Williams for Damon Staudamire-Walt Williams-Carlos Rogers deal over a year ago, and the Blazers are still profiting while the only player still on the Raptors from that trade is backup guard Alvin Williams. By these wise decisions, the Blazers created one of the youngest and deepest teams in the NBA, and found themselves in the conference finals this year.

If there is one team that doesn't need any help in the offseason, it is the Blazers.

2: Player Overview


Arvydas Sabonis, while one of the oldest centers in the league, is still a very capable starter. He is possibly the craftiest big-man in the game, and one of the most creative passers in the history of his position. The problem is that he is quickly wearing down. We all hear the line “If he were to have played in the NBA instead of Europe all those years, he would be considered one of the greats to play our game.” His greatness in his youth was probably all true, but perhaps the largest truth in the saying is that he is no longer the player that he once used to be. While still productive (12.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.4 apg), better statistics can be found on many other centers around the league. Sabonis is working under a three-year, $30.4 million contract that will expire in 2001, when most people expect him to retire. Sabonis’ backup will be third-year man Kelvin Cato, who was originally drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, but traded to the Blazers for the draft rights to Chris Anstey and monetary considerations. Cato made a name for himself in college as one of the nation’s premier shotblockers. Last year, he averaged a blocked shot every 9.8 minutes, but the problem was that he only saw roughly 12.7 minutes per game. He only shot .450 from the field, and was a pitiful .507 from the 3-pt line. He averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last season in spot duty. He is currently under a three-year, $3.4 million rookie contract that will expire after next season. When Sabonis goes to the bench, the Blazers normally move to a smaller lineup with Brian Grant or Rasheed Wallace playing center, so Cato usually isn’t in during the thick of battle. However, he is still a young and athletic prospect at center who many in the organization think can take over for Sabonis after he retires. Center is not the strongest position for the Blazers, but they certainly are in better shape than a good part of the league, and would have little playing time available for a rookie at this position.

Power Forwards

The Blazers are fortunate enough to have two superstars under contract at this position, but is that a good thing or a bad thing? Both Brian Grant and Rasheed Wallace played selflessly last season. Grant’s tough-man, gritty style of play worked well to help the Blazers bang against bigger teams last season. Grant stepped-up his play during the opening rounds of the playoffs. He gained much notoriety with his play against Karl Malone in the Western Conference semifinals when he outplayed one of the greatest players to play the game. However, he was shut-down for the most part against Tim Duncan in the conference finals. Grant provides a great low-post presence for a young team, and gives them a sense of toughness. He was signed to a seven-year, $63 million contract in 1997 that has a player opt-out clause after next season. He is expected to stay in Portland and complete the remainder of his contract, and is considered one of the only untradable players on the team. His 1998-99 statistics included 11.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game after he started 46 of the 48 games that he played in this year. The other superstar at PF for the Blazers is young Rasheed Wallace, who is an electrifying athlete with an array of monster dunks in his arsenal. He has all the talent in the world, but his temper holds him back at times. He only started 18 of the 49 games that he played in, but was still his team’s second-leading scorer with a 12.8 average in 28.9 minutes of playing time per game. Wallace agreed to take a reserve role to help the team, and came through in a big way. These are two guys who any team would like to have, and who play too well to allow any rookies to get playing time at their positions.

Small Forwards

Walt Williams is probably the least spectacular player in the team’s starting lineup, which is a good sign at how good this team really is. He only started 16 of the 48 games that he played in, but he provided a great shooting touch and veteran leadership to the team. Williams is one of the premier shooters in the league, hitting .438 of his three-pointers on the year (he only shot .424 from the field last year). But shooting is possibly his only true asset. He only averaged 3.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game last season. Williams is signed through 2002 under a five year, $20 million contract. Williams’ primary backup is 6’8” swingman Stacey Augmon. Augmon’s primary asset is his defense. He averaged 1.2 steals per game in under 20 minutes a game. However, that is where his talents probably end. He only averaged 4.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game, and didn’t make a single three-pointer on the year. Augmon is still a good team-player who plays quality minutes, but he won’t ever contribute much on the stat sheet. He becomes a free agent after next season, when it will be debatable if his career will have any more options left open. The only other forward on the Blazers’ roster is Carlos Rogers, who plays both forward positions. Rogers spent all but two games of the season on the injured list with tendinitis of the knee, although it is debatable as to whether the Blazers even wanted him around. They became so overcrowded on their 12-man roster that there was simply no room for Rogers. He used to be thought of as a budding superstar, but never really lived up to his potential because of bad work habits. He was traded to the Blazers in the Damon Staudamire deal, and was signed through the year 2002 while still a Raptor. He is making a bit under $3 million a year, so he isn’t the most burdensome bench player in the league, but the Blazers would probably love to unload him. The small forward position is very weak for a championship team, but is it really too much to ask that a team start at least one role player? Augmon and Williams both only specialize in one category apiece, and Rogers may never see playing time in Portland, but three is already a crowd on this roster, so an extra rookie probably wouldn’t help much.

Shooting Guard

This is the position that they are the most well-stocked in, perhaps too well-stocked. Their starter is Isaiah Rider, the leading scorer on the team, and one of their emotional leaders. Rider averaged 13.9 points per game last season on .412 shooting, along with 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per contest. Rider plays the game with emotion, and was one of the Blazers’ top players in the playoffs. He only averaged 29.5 minutes a game during the season, much less than most starting shooting guards in the league. The Blazers would probably like to get rid of Rider because of his childish personality, although their will not be many suitors who will bang down the Blazers’ door for him. If they can’t unload him, he will become a free agent after next season, when his seven-year, $25.6 million contract expires. Before last season began, the Blazers stole one of the top free agents in the league for $6 million over three years. That man was Jim Jackson, who was one of the top scorers in the league while on the Mavericks’ roster. Jackson brings good athleticism and scoring ability to the Blazers, seeing 24.0 minutes of action per game last season. Only shooting .278 from three-point land during the season, Jackson scores most of his points in the post, which frees-up room for players like Walt Williams to knock-down three-pointers. Jackson is very capable of starting at shooting guard, although his scoring mentality doesn’t provide much help to a team full of stars. The Blazers’ third-string point guard last season was rookie Bonzi Wells, who was the 11th pick in the draft last year to the Detroit Pistons. Wells possesses all of the talent needed to be an NBA star, but was buried deep on the Blazers’ bench, and only averaged 5.0 minutes in 7 games. Wells could be a very good player for the Blazers if they trade Rider, or Wells could be traded, himself. He was a star at Ball State, and is a top defensive presence with a good, athletic game. This is a very deep position for the Blazers, and probably the last that they would address in the draft.

Point Guard

Any rookie would not see time at this position unless Damon Staudamire were to be traded. Staudamire, a former Rookie of the Year while in Toronto, experienced a down season. He shot only .396 from the field, unacceptable for someone making over $10 million a season. He started all 50 games for Portland, and provided excitement to the team, but his statistics must improve if he is to stay in the management’s good graces. There has already been trade talk surrounding him, but his seven-year, $81 million contract will be too much for most clubs to add to their payroll. Staudamire’s backup was defensive wizzard Greg Anthony, who put-up respectable, but unspectacular numbers last season. He did only shoot .414 from the field, but that was better than the man starting in front of him. He is a very capable backup who won’t hurt a team when he plays his 16.1 minutes a night. Any movement at this position shouldn’t affect him, as he will be expected to play the same role next season as he did in the Blazers’ season in 1999. He will become a free agent after next season, when his two-year, $2.1 million contract expires. This is a position that could use an upgrade, but has no minutes to spare.

3: My Selection

Vonteego Cummings was the best talent available at this point in the draft. He can play both the point guard position and shooting guard. Once considered a sure-fire first rounder and possible lottery pick, Cummings' stock dropped this year because the Pittsburgh basketball team experienced a horrendous year. He has all of the qualities that you need in a point guard. He is athletic, has great size, and can both pass and shoot. The Trailblazers could use a young point guard because Greg Anthony will be a free agent after next season, and this will give them a year to groom a talented rookie.

4: Others Considered

The pickings were pretty slim. The only position that I didn't consider was shooting guard, because Rider, Jackson, and Wells already crowd the place too much. Cummings was a pretty easy choice because his talent level was much higher than most other prospects. Ademola Okulija could have provided the team with a servicable backup forward, but his game wouldn't command any playing time. Rico Hill, formerly of Illinois State, would have been a nice developmental project. For post players, good rebounders like Michael Ruffin, Bud Eley, and Tyrone Grant were considered, but the team doesn't need another power forward badly enough. And as far as centers went, there was no one worthy of the pick that was left available.

5: Who the team probably will take

The Blazers don’t have a pick in this draft, and that probably won’t change. There was a rumor floating around about Rasheed Wallace for the second pick, but those rumors have quietly died. Any roster moves for this team will probably occur after the draft. There is no room on the roster for rookies, and the Blazers are a franchise on the way up, so expect them to stay quiet on draft day.

6: Other moves the team should make

The only problem for the Blazers is that they have too much talent on their roster to keep everyone happy, so they may look to trade away one or two players. The player that they will probably shop the most will be Isaiah Rider, but they won’t get much for him. They could also be looking at trading Staudamire for another top point guard, but his contract is so huge that he is almost untradable. Rasheed Wallace is probably the most tradable because there are many teams that are looking for power forwards, and he has been impressive as of late, but he is also playing for over $10 million a year. I don’t foresee them making any moves. The will probably try to make another deep run into the playoffs with the talent that they have, and they’ll probably do pretty well at it.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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