Blazers change gears at point guard, getting younger with Raymond Felton, Nolan Smith
The Trail Blazers took care of their situation at point guard Thursday via both the trade and the NBA draft.
At least, they hope they did.
Portland sent veteran Andre Miller, 35, to Denver in a three-way deal that reaped Nugget point guard Raymond Felton, who turns 27 on Sunday.
The Blazers also used the 21st pick in the draft to select Duke senior Nolan Smith, who they hope is ready-made to fill the backup position.
'We got younger at point guard (with Felton), and we feel really good about the pick,' team President Larry Miller said. Smith 'is someone we believe can come in and help us.'
'We did a good job improving the team,' Portland coach Nate McMillan said. 'We gave up a pro in Andre, but we add a guard who not only will help us now but will be a guard for the future.'
Portland also gave up Rudy Fernandez to Dallas to help facilitate the Felton trade. It means the Blazers will be without two veterans - Miller and Fernandez - from their backcourt rotation of the past season.
'It was not easy letting either of those guys go,' said Chad Buchanan, the Blazers' acting general manager. 'We're going to miss those guys. But we're very excited about the additions.'
The 6-1, 200-pound Felton wound up in Denver last season after a trade-deadline deal with New York.
In 54 games as a starter with the Knicks, Felton averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 assists in 38.4 minutes, shooting .423 from the field, .328 from 3-point range and .867 from the foul line. In 21 games as a reserve with the Nuggets, he averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 assists in 31.6 minutes, shooting .431, .459 and .617.
Felton, who has one year remaining on his contract at $7.5 million, was with Charlotte his first five seasons in the NBA, all as a starter. His career numbers: 13.7 points and 6.7 assists, with shooting numbers at .412, .333 and .786.
'Felton was a guy we targeted going back to the (2005) draft,' said Buchanan, who was a Blazer scout in those days. 'We view him now as a point guard entering his prime.
'He brings toughness, passion, grit. We like what he has done as far as progression during his time in the NBA. He has gotten better and better each year, and we think he'll continue to show improvement for us.'
The 6-2, 185-pound Smith, who turns 23 on July 23, had an outstanding senior year at Duke, averaging 20.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds. He was named national player of the year by Fox Sports, Yahoo and NBC Sports, was a consensus first-team All-American, player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ACC tournament most valuable player.
Last season, Smith shot .458 from the field, .350 from 3-point territory and .813 at the line.
'He's a high-character guy,' Buchanan said. 'He's what this organization is about. He's a winner, a national champion his junior year. We're big on guys improving every year, and he showed that at Duke, in all areas of his game.'
Smith, a point guard his first three seasons at Duke, was slotted as a shooting guard this season. But when freshman point guard Kyrie Irving - the No. 1 pick in this year's draft - was injured early in the season, Smith moved back to the point.
'He'll fill a void,' Buchanan said. 'He can play a little 1, a little 2. He has some versatility there that we like.'
With the 57th pick in the second round, Portland chose Jon Diebler, a 6-6, 205-pound shooting guard from Ohio State who led the nation in 3-point percentage at .502.
Diebler is the Big Ten career leader in 3-pointers (374), matching the conference record with 10 in a game as a senior. He shot .507 from the field and .810 at the line last season, averaging 12.6 points.
'Jon was one of the better catch-and-shoot guys in this draft,' Buchanan said. 'He had some phenomenal games shooting the ball for a very good Ohio State team.'