Usually around this time of year, we’d be neck deep in NBA draft coverage. But since the Trail Blazers currently own no picks in either the first or second round of the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft, the yearly ritual of watching and interviewing a parade of potential picks who are in town to work out against each other at the team’s practice facility in Tualatin has been discontinued, at least this year.
So since we’ve got some spare time, let’s take a look at where the current players on Portland’s roster were drafted and which teams drafted them before they became Trail Blazers. For reference, five of Portland’s current players were drafted by the Trail Blazers, three were acquired by the Trail Blazers on draft night, three were drafted by other teams and one went undrafted. Portland’s roster currently boasts five lottery picks, 10 first-round picks and two second-round picks. Here they are, in order of where in the draft they were selected …
LaMarcus Aldridge – Second Overall Pick – 2006
The Bulls selected Aldridge with the second pick in the 2006 Draft, then sent him to Portland on draft night in exchange for Tyrus Thomas, who the Trail Blazers selected with the fourth overall pick, and Viktor Khryapa. The Blazers also got a conditional second round pick as a part of the deal (though I think that was traded at some point as well). This trade has to go down as one of the most successful in franchise history seeing as how both Thomas and Khryapa are out of the league while Aldridge is likely the best player to come out of the 2007 class. And from what I gather on my once-yearly trips to Chicago, this trade is still a sore subject among Bulls fans in the Windy City. I doubt the Raptors, who selected Andrea Bargnani ahead of Aldridge with the first overall pick, look back fondly on this one either.
Thomas Robinson – Fifth Overall Pick – 2012
Of the four current Trail Blazers selected in the 2012 Draft, Robinson was the first to be selected. He played in 51 games for the Kings before being traded his rookie season to the Houston Rockets in one of the more head-scratching moves involving a rookie. The Rockets then traded Thomas in the offseason to Portland to clear salary for which to sign Dwight Howard in free agency. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters were selected ahead of Robinson, with the next pick being …
Damian Lillard – Sixth Overall Pick – 2012
Another trade, albeit not on draft day, that worked out extremely well for the Trail Blazers. Portland sent Gerald Wallace to the then New Jersey Nets in exchange for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a top-3 protected pick in the 2012 Draft. Neither Okur nor Williams ever played for the Trail Blazers, but the Nets ended up with the sixth pick in the 2012 Draft Lottery, which resulted in Portland selecting a point guard from little known Weber State. Since then, Lillard has been named Rookie of the Year, an All-Star and a third-team All-NBA selection.
By the way, this is one of the all-time great shaking-hands-with-David-Stern photos. Dame hitting him with the serious ice grill.
CJ McCollum – Tenth Overall Pick – 2013
The 2013 class had one of the worst collective rookie seasons of any draft class in recent memory, but you can’t fault McCollum for that. After averaging 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists at the 2013 Las Vegas Summer League, McCollum suffered a break of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot early in training camp, all but scuttling his rookie season. Trey Burke was selected by Utah the pick before McCollum, while Michael Carter-Williams, who went on to win the 2014 Rookie of the Year almost by default, was selected 11th by the Philadelphia.
Meyers Leonard – 11th Overall Pick – 2012
After the Trail Blazers used the pick acquired in the Gerald Wallace trade to select Damian Lillard, they used their own pick to select Meyers Leonard out of Illinois. Portland struck a balance with these picks, as Lillard became Portland’s starting point guard moments after shaking David Stern’s hand, while Leonard was selected with an eye toward the future. Meyers was selected after New Orleans drafted Austin Rivers with the ninth pick and before Houston selected Jeremy Lamb.
Robin Lopez – 15th Overall Pick – 2008
The Suns selected Robin Lopez with a pick they received from Atlanta as a part of the sign-and-trade that sent Joe Johnson to the Hawks. The Suns got Boris Diaw in that trade and a 2006 first round pick along with the pick that became RoLo, making this a nice little trade for Phoenix. Robin’s twin, Brook, was drafted by the Nets five picks prior in a draft that produced a bevy of quality NBA bigmen, including Kevin Love, Roy Hibbert (who was taken two picks after RoLo), Serge Ibaka, Omer Asik, DeAndre Jordan, JaVale McGee, Ryan Anderson, Kosta Koufos, Nikola Pekovic, Jason Thompson and JJ Hickson. That’s a ton of starting centers and power forwards from just one draft. As Robin would say, RoLo in good company.
Dorell Wright – 19th Overall Pick – 2004
While he is primarily thought of as a shooter at this point in his career, there was a time that Dorell Wright was was considered more of an athlete than a basketball player. Wright didn’t start focusing on hoops until he was well into high school, which makes the Heat selecting Wright with the 19th pick out of South Kent High School all the more impressive. Dorell’s draft was the last in which players could be selected straight from the prep ranks, which might explain why eight of the 30 players taken in the first round were straight out of high school, including Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, J.R. Smith, Shaun Livingston and Sebastian Telfair.
Victor Claver – 22nd Overall Pick – 2009
The Trail Blazers drafted or traded on draft night for four players in the 2009 Draft. Victor Claver was the only first-rounder at No. 22, though he was the last of the four to play for the Trail Blazers, as he spent the next two season playing for Valencia in Spain. Now, with Jeff Ayres (then Jeff Pendergraph), Dante Cunningham and Patty Mills all playing for different teams, Claver is the last player who the Blazers selected in that draft who is still with the team.
Nicolas Batum – 25th Overall Pick – 2008
Along with trading acquiring Aldridge from the Bulls, the deal that netted the Trail Blazers Nicolas Batum goes down as one of their better draft day moves. Three-team trades, especially during the draft, can be a bit convoluted, but the gist is the Trail Blazers ended up with Batum in exchange for the rights to Darrell Arthur and Joey Dorsey. In retrospect, that’s a complete no-brainer. Batum was only available at No. 25 after irregularities showed up on a heart test administered during a workout with the Raptors. That test, along with the incorrectly reported news that Batum’s father had died of a heart attack (it was an aneurysm) while playing professionally in France, sent Batum’s stock plummeting, even after new tests showed no issue. An unfortunate draft tale, but it all turned out fine in the end.
Joel Freeland – 30th Overall Pick – 2006
There were doubts that Joel Freeland would ever play in the NBA despite the Trail Blazers using the final pick of the first round to select the 6-11 Englishman. But in 2012, six years after he was drafted alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy, Freeland signed a three-year contract with the Trail Blazers after working himself into being one of the top bigmen in Spain while playing for both Gran Canaria and Malaga.
Allen Crabbe – 31st Overall Pick – 2013
And we’ve come to the second rounders. Allen Crabbe was selected by the Cavaliers with the first pick of the second round, only to be traded soon after to Portland in exchange for two second-round picks. The Trail Blazers felt that Crabbe, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection and the 2013 Pac-12 Player of the Year out of Cal, had first round talent, so when he slipped to the second round, the Trail Blazers made the move to bring him to Portland. I actually broke the news to Crabbe in his post-selection press conference that he had been traded to Portland AFTER he had already fielded ten minutes of questions about playing in Cleveland.
Will Barton – 40th Overall Pick – 2012
After winning the Conference USA Player of the Year in his sophomore season at Memphis, Will Normal Barton III made himself eligible for the 2012 Draft, presumably because he thought he would be taken in the first round. That turned out to not be the case, as the 6-6 swingman from Baltimore had to wait until well into the second round to hear his name called. The pick Portland used to draft Barton was a part of the trade that sent Marcus Camby to Houston in exchange for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet. Considering the strides Barton made this season, you have to feel real good about the way that trade panned out.
Wesley Matthews – Undrafted – 2009
Wesley Matthews’ journey from undrafted senior out of Marquette to starting NBA shooting guard is well documented, so there’s probably not much reason to rehash that origin story here. But consider this: there are 10 players who were drafted in the second round of the 2009 Draft who have never played in the NBA, and odds are that none of those 10 ever will at this point. What’s more, seven other players taken in the second round of the 2009 were not on NBA rosters last season. So Matthews, who started every game he played all four years at Marquette, was passed over by 19 players, just in the second round, who no longer have what it takes or never did have what it takes to play in the NBA. Meanwhile, Matthews has started 321 NBA games and had his best season ever in 2013-14 while starting for a team that went to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Remember that the next time you find yourself buying into the draft hype.