Blazer brain trust keeps its cards close to the vest
Over the last few weeks, Steve Patterson, Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan have proved themselves really good at keeping secrets. Beginning Wednesday, we'll find out how good they are at judging talent.
Not a peep has been heard from the Trail Blazer triumvirate about what they are thinking of doing with Portland's No. 4 pick in the draft. If their players had defended opponents as carefully as the trio has guarded clues to the organization's draft thoughts, the Blazers wouldn't have finished last season with the NBA's worst record.
Six players are bunched together at the top end of the draft - forwards Andrea Bargnani (Italy), Adam Morrison (Gonzaga), Rudy Gay (Connecticut) and Tyrus Thomas (Louisiana State), center-forward LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas) and guard Brandon Roy (Washington). The Blazers may be considering a move up or down, depending on what other teams are offering.
There is little consensus about what the teams drafting one (Toronto), two (Chicago), three (Charlotte) and four will do. A check of seven mock drafts put together by various news sources reveals as much. Three have the Raptors taking Bargnani, three have them taking Morrison and one has them taking Aldridge. Six of the mock drafts predict Chicago will tab Thomas at No. 2; the other says Aldridge. Four forecast Charlotte selecting Gay at No. 3, two say Morrison and one says Roy. Portland gets a mixed bag at No. 4 (Morrison and Aldridge get two votes apiece; Gay, Roy and Bargnani get one each).
Through sources with other organizations, agents and the draft prospects themselves, we know these things:
• Toronto General Manager Bryan Colangelo is open to any and all possibilities with the No. 1 pick. 'It's 50-50 whether Bryan keeps or trades the pick,' a source said last weekend. Among the teams that have contacted the Raptors are Charlotte, Portland, Atlanta and Seattle. It's not clear whom the Blazers would take if they obtained the top selection, though word is they want Morrison.
If the Raptors move down, they may take Roy, whom they were expected to bring to Toronto for a workout Monday. If they keep the pick, it's likely they will take Bargnani, the 6-11 small forward who was to be in New York last weekend for a physical exam and to meet with some interested teams (it is believed two of the teams are Toronto and Portland). Last week, the 20-year-old Bargnani helped Benetton Treviso clinch the Italian pro league championship.
Will Toronto's recent acquisition of San Antonio center Rasho Nesterovic affect its interest in Bargnani, since the Raptors also have Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva on their front line? It makes more sense for the Raptors to move down, take Roy and bolster their backcourt.
• Chicago GM John Paxson isn't showing his cards, either, pleading mass appeal for almost all the candidates. Insiders believe Thomas is the guy but that the Bulls also are considering Morrison and Roy. Paxson claims he has made no promises to anyone. Thomas pulled out of last week's workout in Portland, supposedly because he has assurances from the Bulls.
• Charlotte brought back Gay for a second workout Thursday; the Bobcats were hoping for a visit from Bargnani and a return by Morrison before the draft. There were no plans to reschedule Aldridge, Thomas or Roy after those three canceled auditions set for last week. A source says the Bobcats like both Gay and Morrison but might be tipping the scale toward Gay.
• Thomas made a visit to Houston on Friday, probably because the Rockets have been discussing a trade with Portland that probably would involve Darius Miles and Juwan Howard and the teams swapping picks (four and eight). Houston also brought Roy in for a visit Saturday.
• The Blazers like Morrison, but they also like Aldridge and Roy. Patterson has made a big deal about players being willing to 1) visit for workouts and 2) go against other players in the sessions. Aldridge, a 6-11, 245-pound sophomore, worked out alone here but impressed Blazer personnel as much with the type of person he is as with his game.
If need plays a part, Portland won't take Roy, a true shooting guard who would be in direct competition with Martell Webster. If both Morrison and Aldridge are on the board when the Blazers select, it will be a difficult decision. The guess here is it would be Aldridge. But the way information has been leaking out of the Blazer offices lately, that can be said with little certainty.
And if Bargnani falls to No. 4? The Blazers scouted him extensively in Italy this season. He might be too inviting for the local quintet to pass on.