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Will Blazers go down, or up, in NBA draft?

Deal to improve position 'probably less than 50 percent,' says acting GM Chad Buchanan

I had a hunch this was going to be a different kind of NBA draft for the Trail Blazers.

Indications were making me think that the Blazers, rather than attempt to move up in next Thursday's draft, were actually inclined to go the other way.

Portland owner Paul Allen, a draft hound if there ever were one, has historically wanted his executives to acquire lottery picks and has authorized the purchase of several late-first-round picks, at $3 million a pop.

But this year, coach Nate McMillan has made clear his preference for the acquisition of players in their prime as opposed to developing more rookies and young players.

Portland owns the 21st pick. In recent years, the Blazers have brought in for pre-draft workouts at least a few players slotted to go earlier than their pick, in case they were able to move up.

The potential first-round picks the Blazers have had or will have in for workouts this time include Nikola Vucevic, Kenneth Faried, Jeremy Tyler, Kyle Singler, Darius Morris, Josh Selby, Norris Cole, Jimmy Butler and JaJuan Johnson.

In five mock drafts I checked, only two of those players - Vucevic and Selby - were projected to go before No. 21. And each was slated to go before the 21st selection only in one mock draft. More often, the players who worked out in Portland were seen as late first- and early second-round choices. That led me to believe it was an indication the Blazers might be looking to - gasp! - trade down.

Chad Buchanan, Portland's acting general manager, says that is not the case.

'We haven't had any discussions with teams below us yet,' he says. 'Of course, there are still six days to the draft, so it could happen.'

What has really happened is the players slotted to be taken in the range around Portland's pick are mostly wing types - the strength of the Blazer roster. Agents of clients in that category have steered their clients away from working out for Portland for that reason.

The Blazers are prepared to move up or down, or stand pat. Buchanan and the rest of the Blazer scouting department are well-backgrounded on all draft-eligible players.

Chances for opportunities to move into the lottery in what is generally considered to be a weak draft will probably lessen as the draft nears.

'Teams tend to fall in love with a player and decide to keep the pick,' Buchanan says. 'But that's not always the case. It depends on how badly another team wants to move up, too.'

Buchanan rates the chances of Portland pulling off a deal at 'probably less than 50 percent.'

'If it's the right thing for our organization, we'll be very aggressive,' he says. 'If it's a player we've targeted and there's an opportunity to get him at the right price, we'll take advantage of that. But it has to be right on all of it for us to do that.'

Anything that happens must be approved by Allen. The Blazer owner has just returned to the U.S. after an African junket and is expected to be in Portland either Friday or Saturday to watch pre-draft workouts.

In terms of acquiring talent by any means possible, Portland's wish list is clear.

'The point guard and depth in the frontcourt is something we have to address,' Buchanan says. 'Andre (Miller) has been a rock for us, but we realize the stage he's at in his career. Marcus (Camby) is at the tail end of his career, as well. Those are the two areas we're looking to address, whether through the draft, free agency or a trade.'