|The 28th pick belongs to the Western Conference runner-ups, the Portland Trailblazers. Their GM is is Jason Timperley who selects:|
I. TEAM OVERVIEW
After finishing 35-15 in the lockout season of 98-99, and losing 4-0 to the eventual champions San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals, big-spending owner Paul Allen opened his ample cheque book and President/GM set about improving an already impressive roster. In came Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith and Detlef Schrempf. To make way for them Jim Jackson, Isaiah Rider and Walt Williams were shipped of along with some spare parts. The Blazers payroll for 1999/2000 was a massive $73.9 million, highest in the league.
In the 1999/2000 season, the Blazers were again one of the elite teams, finishing with a 59-23 record after the regular season. Portland blew past Minnesota 3-1 in round 1, and defeated Utah 4-1 in the Conference semis to set up a meeting with the powerful LA Lakers in the Conference Finals. The Blazers pushed Shaq's boys to 7 games before eventually going down 4-3. Many people consider that Portland was the second best team in the league this past year. The team is very deep and experienced in every position. Many key players however (Sabonis, Schrempf, Anthony, Pippen and Smith) are past their prime and age may be a concern for the Blazers in the not to distant future.
II. DRAFT HISTORY
Looking back at the draft over the last decade, the Blazers haven't really got much at all. And in 1994, 1998 and 1999 they didn't even make one selection. Of all the players that Portland drafted since 1990 only four (Aaron McKie, Chris Anstey, Alvin Williams and Jermaine O'Neal) played in the league this season. O'Neal is the only player still with the team now. They did make a couple of nice trades though, In 1995 they traded their first choice, no. 8 Shawn Respert to Milwaukee for no.11 Gary Trent and a future pick, and in 1997 the Blazers drafted Chris Anstey at no. 18 and sent him to Dallas in exchange for Kelvin Cato, no.15.
III. MANAGEMENT AND COACHING
Portland has the richest owner in the game, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and he seemingly is willing to spend as much as necessary to make the Blazers the best they can be. This makes everyone else's job easier. President and General Manager Bob Whitsitt or 'Trader Bob' as he is often called in the media is responsible for assembling Allen's team of stars. He has made quite a few good trades, and seems to prefer building a team through trading and free-agency rather than trying to acquire rookies through the draft. Whitsitt is well respected by his peers around the league. Even though they haven't drafted many players recently, they still have some good young talent on the roster, in particular Bonzi Wells and Jermaine O'Neal. The coach of this team is Mike Dunleavy, who has done a good job trying to fit people into the rotation. It doesn't matter who the players are, if a team gets to the Conference Finals in consecutive years the coach must be doing quite a serviceable job.
Arvydas Sabonis (C 7'3" 292lbs 35yrs) Sabonis is the starting center for the team, but because of niggling injuries and advancing age, he is limited to about 25mpg (he played 30mpg in the playoffs). Sabonis is one of the best passing and shooting big men to play the game, and at 7'3" and 292lbs, he is BIG. Despite his massive size, he is more of a finesse center than a banger. His is not very athletic but he is very difficult to match up with. He has recently had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right foot but is expected to be ready for next season. He averaged 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds last season, shooting at .505 from the field (10th in the league) and .843 from the foul line. Expect Sabonis to be the starting pivot again next season playing about 24 minutes per game.
Jermaine O'Neal (F/C 6'11" 226 21yrs) really a power forward, O'Neal was Sabonis' chief backup at Center this past year although Dunleavy sometimes went with a three forward/two guards lineup when Sabonis was resting with Rasheed Wallace defending the opposition center. O'Neal was drafted straight from High School in 1996, and became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game at the age of 18. He hasn't developed as well as hoped but his playing time has been limited. Some people forget how young he still is, if he went to college and stayed for his full term it may have been him, rather than Kenyon Martin that will be drafted number one in the upcoming draft. O'Neal isn't strong enough to compete with most NBA centers and I think he is better suited to the forward spot. He played 12mpg and averaged 3.9ppg and 3.3rpg last year. The latest talk in the media is that O'Neal has requested to be traded to get more playing time, one rumour has him going to Chicago in exchange for draft picks, but we will just wait and see. He is still only 21 and will only get better given the chance.
Joe Kleine (C 7'0" 271lbs 38yrs) Veteran journeyman signed for the league minimum last year, Kleine appeared in only 7 games last season and was signed more for his cheerleading and locker-room influence than his ability on the court. Kleine knows what the game is about but hardly got a chance, stepping onto the pine for a total of 31 minutes for the year. He is a free agent next year but at 38 don't expect him to return to the NBA as a player.
Rasheed Wallace (F/C 6'11" 225lbs 25yrs) Secured the starting power forward spot with injuries to Brian Grant and had a stellar season in 1999-2000 winning a berth in the All-Star game. Wallace was the teams leading scorer with 16.4ppg at .519 from the field in 35.1mpg and he also pulled down 7.0rpg. But more than those stats was Rasheed's aggression and heart that inspired the Blazers, he plays very hard. He also got more than his share of tech fouls for the year! Wallace also spent some time at Center when Sabonis was off the court. Wallace will almost certainly be a starter again next season and he is signed to a long term contract (he will be a free agent in 2004).
Brian Grant (F 6'9" 254lbs 28yrs) Grant was slowed done by injuries and the emergence of Wallace this year and he struggled to match his sparkling form of the lockout shortened season. He missed 19 games with injuries early in the season, by that time Wallace already had a firm hold on the starting power forward spot. After averaging 11.5ppg and 9.8rpg in 31.8mpg in 98/99, Grant's time was cut to 21mpg in 1999/2000 and his numbers dropped to 7.3ppg and 5.5rpg. He is still a valuable part of the Portland lineup and is one of the best bench players in the league. Grant has an option to opt-out of his contract with the Blazers this off-season and may use it if he can go to a team that he will start with, he is said to be very interested in joining the Lakers. However, the catch for Grant is that no team would be able to pay him nearly as much as the Blazers can (he received $7.6 million last year). Whether or not the front office expect Grant to stay will have a big effect on who the Blazers take in the draft, if he leaves, along with O'Neal, there will be a gaping hole in the Blazers front court reserves.
Antonio Harvey (F 6'11" 250lbs 29yrs) Harvey played for the league minimum last year and is a free agent again. Harvey appeared in 19 games and averaged only 7mpg. He may be re-signed for the minimum again before the start of next season, he may not. Either way it won't make much of a difference, he will never be more than a 11th or 12th man.
Scottie Pippen (F 6'7" 228lbs 34yrs) Pippen is now stepping into the veteran class. After a very successful career in Chicago teaming with Michael Jordan, Pippen had a dissappointing stint in Houston with Olajuwon and Barkley before joining the Blazers at the start of the season. Pippen was the only Blazer to start in all 82 games and had a good allround season without being spectacular. With Portland's wealth of scoring options, Pippen wasn't required to score every trip down the floor like his post-Michael Chicago days. Scottie averaged 33.5mpg and scored 12.5ppg and grabbed 6.3rpg, also dishing out 5.0apg. Pippen is still one of the best small forwards in the game and is a very good defender. He is signed through 2003 and will be the definite starter at the wing spot in 2000/2001.
Detlef Schrempf (F 6'10" 235lbs 37yrs) Schrempf is a veteran who signed a two year deal with the Blazers at the start of 98/99 in an attempt to capture a championship before he retired. Schrempf accepted a lesser role for the benefit of the team, and at 37 years of age reducing his minutes may have been the best way to get the best out of Schrempf. Before joining Portland, Schrempf averaged over 30 minutes and 15 points each year for the last ten years with Seattle and Indiana. This season saw him coming off the bench behind Pippen, Schrempf was a good contributor averaging 7.5ppg and 4.3rpg in 21.6mpg. He provides valuable shooting off the bench. Schrempf is mulling over a decision whether to return for the final year of his contract or retiring. I believe he still has the skills to help the Blazers next year and in my opinion he should return for one more year.
Stacey Augmon (F 6'8" 205lbs 32yrs) Augmon had a strange off-season last year. he was traded by the Blazers to Houston along with others in the Pippen trade, however Houston couldn't find a roster spot for him so he was waived. Portland then signed him later for the minimum for a one year deal. Augmon is a defensive specialist and is very athletic. He averaged 11.7 minutes in 59 games, and scored 3,4ppg and grabbed 2.0rpg. He is a free agent, but may return as he is a good role player as the 11th or 12th man on a team like the Blazers.
Jamel Thomas (F 6'6" 219lbs 24yrs) JT was signed midway through the season and appeared in 7 games, averaging about 7 minutes of court time per game. He lacks height for a small forward but plays hard, is still young and may hook up with another NBA team as he is a free agent, I doubt the Blazers will re-sign him.
Steve Smith (G 6'8" 215lbs 31yrs) Smith was acquired from Atlanta in the deal that got rid of Isaiah Rider and Jim Jackson. This deal was as much about improving chemistry as it was as improving the talent level. Rightly or wrongly, Rider has a reputation as a bit of a locker room cancer whereas Smith is seen as a perfect citizen. This deal turned out well for the Blazers, Smith was second on the team in scoring averaging 14.9ppg in 32.8 minutes, he provided some valuable outside shooting to give Wallace and co. more room to operate down low. Smith is a veteran now, and will continue to do his job and play well. His minutes may be reduced slightly next season with the emergence of young reserve Bonzi Wells. Smith is signed through to 2003.
Bonzi Wells (G 6'5" 210lbs 24yrs) The play of Bonzi Wells in 1999/2000 was a very pleasant suprise for the Blazers and gives them a problem that most teams are envious about. How can they give him enough minutes? Wells was drafted 11th overall by Detroit in the 1998 draft then traded to Portland in exchange for Portland's pick in the 1999 draft. It turned out to be a bargain for Portland as Wells showed a lot of potential in his 17.6mpg backing up Steve Smith. In limited court time he managed to score 8.8ppg. His minutes may increase slightly this year and he forms a very potent duo of shooting guards for Portland. Wells is signed on a three year rookie contract which expires in 2002, when the team has an option to re-sign him. I can't see the Blazers letting Wells go to easily.
Damon Stoudamire (G 5'10" 171lbs 26yrs) Stoudamire was the Blazer's starting point guard all season, but his backup, Greg Anthony spent most of the minutes on the court at crunch times. Stoudamire averaged 30.4mpg, 12.5ppg and 5.2apg. He can be a very good player and is probably in the top dozen point guards in the league. He will again be the starter next year. He is signed for a big contract through 2005, which makes it difficult to trade him if the team wanted to.
Greg Anthony (G 6'1" 180lbs 33yrs) Anthony is a veteran and a very capable backup for Stoudamire. He played very well at the start of the season but his form slipped away towards the end of the year. He will probably be re-signed by Portland if he accepts the minimum. Should be back next year.
Gary Grant (G6'3" 185lbs 35yrs) Who? Grant (Gary) has one year remaining on a two year deal. He played in just 3 games last year, for a total of 24 minutes. I haven't seen anything of him to comment on his play but he may spend next year on the injured list, get waived, or chucked in as trade bait. It doesn't really matter, barring major injuries he doesn't have a role to play with this team as it is at present.
PLAYERS CONTRACTS Portland Trailblazers Date # of total Player signed years salary misc FA Greg Anthony .......... 1/22/99 2 $2.1 million '00 Stacey Augmon ......... 10/28/99 1 minimum '00 Brian Grant ........... 8/23/97 7 $63 million p-opt '00 Antonio Harvey ........ 10/4/99 1 minimum '00 Joe Kleine ............ 10/6/99 1 minimum '00 Gary Grant ............ 8/7/99 2 $2.1 million '01 Arvydas Sabonis ....... 1/21/99 3 $30.4 million '01 Detlef Schrempf ....... 8/2/99 2 $4.2 million '01 Bonzi Wells ........... 1/25/99 4 $6,314,400 rc t-opt '02 Jermaine O'Neal ....... 8/2/99 4 $25 million '03 Scottie Pippen ........ 1/22/99 5 $67.2 million '03 Steve Smith ........... 7/16/96 7 $50.4 million '03 Rasheed Wallace ....... 9/27/95,9/29/97 3+6 $6.8 mill + $80 mill '04 Damon Stoudamire ...... 1/21/99 7 $81 million '05
V. TEAM NEEDS
This depends on whether Grant and O'Neal leave. If they do, they would be desperate for some backups at Power Forward. As it is, O'Neal is playing out of position at Center, it may be better to trade him and try to get a high lottery pick in return and shoot for Mihm or Przybilla in the draft. Portland may be hesitant to trade O'Neal after nursing him for so long in case he turns into a great player, after all, the guy is only 21. But if Brian Grant stays, there isn't really room for O'Neal unless he plays Center. The team has adequate backups at Small Forward (assuming Schrempf) returns, Shooting Guard, and Point Guard. For this argument, I am assuming that all players return. The biggest need that the Blazers have is at Center, with Sabonis on his way out.
VI. MY SELECTION
I selected Jason Collier, a senior out of Georgia Tech, himself more of a Power Forward than a Center, but I didn't think many of the other remaining Centers were up to scratch. Collier at 7'0" and 243lbs has the size to play Center however he likes to play facing the basket and shooting jumpers, (similar to Sabonis). Collier is not a great rebounder but he can score. I wouldn't expect Collier to come in and make a big impact right away with the Blazers but he should learn a lot from Sabonis. Next years draft is expected to be stacked with quality Centers so the Blazers may have to wait a year to fill their biggest need. There are not any free agent Centers this year that would improve the situation. Barring a major trade (don't forget Trader Bob) I think Portland's team for 2000-2001 will be very similar to this year. However there may be a big overhaul after next season with the possible retirements of Sabonis and Schrempf.
VII. OTHER PLAYERS CONSIDERED
Other Centers that I considered was Soumaila Samake who is 7'2" but very skinny, he spent last year in the IBL. Another couple of foreigners that I could have drafted were Dalibor Bagaric from Croatia or Primoz Brezec, unfortunately my lack of information about them really didn't help. I was hoping that JUCO standout Ernest Brown would fall to me but he was taken one pick before mine.
VIII. WHO THE BLAZERS WILL PROBABLY TAKE
I am not sure who the Blazers have been looking at, but there could be a trade on draft day involving Jermaine O'Neal which might allow Portland to move up the draft and take Chris Mihm or Joel Przybilla. If that does not happen however, I would not be at all surprised if the Blazers drafted a foreign project such as Samake, Bagaric or Brezec.
IX. OTHER MOVES THE TEAM SHOULD MAKE
If I was GM, I would try to trade Jermaine O'Neal while their is interest in him. O'Neal has said that he wants to be traded to get more playing time. If the Bulls will swap O'Neal for the number 4 pick I would do it in a second, and grab either Mihm or Przybilla. Also, I think the Blazers need to hang on to Brian Grant. Of the teams free agents, I think they should try to re-sign Anthony and Augmon and let Kleine, Harvey and Thomas walk.
BLAZERS 2000-2001 (assuming no trades are made)
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