Blazers make out like bandits

The NBA draft this last week was one of the most epic drafts in Portland Trail Blazer history. The Blazers made a ridiculous five picks in the two rounds of the 2006 NBA lottery draft.

When the Toronto Rapters drafted Andrea Bargnani first overall the Blazers had already been on the phone for hours attempting to sap the most out of this year’s draft class. So the question is: how did they make out?

The Blazers first big move was to make Lamarcus Aldridge their first pick with a trade to the Chicago Bulls. It cost the Blazers the number four overall pick (Tyrus Thomas) and young forward Viktor Khryapa to acquire Aldridge as the number two overall pick. Aldridge will be a perfect addition and should be a fantastic fiery young forward.

The 6-foot-10-inch, 237-pound Aldridge averaged 15 points and 9.2 rebounds at the University of Texas. As just a sophomore he helped the Longhorns reach the NCAA tournament and along the way he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Although they did not perform well and Aldridge was pushed around by a more physical LSU, he will be a very big asset for the Blazers. He has great underneath-the-basket skills and is a freak of an athlete. He runs down the court like a guard and rebounds like a monstrous center. He will need to learn how to play against more physical players and develop his outside shooting. Overall he is going to be a great fit for the Blazers.

The trade-happy Blazers’ next deal was with the Boston Celtics. In the trade they acquired the rights to Randy Foye, the Celts seventh overall pick, along with Raef LaFrentz, Dan Dickau and cash for Sebastian Telfair, Theo Ratliff and a 2008 second-round pick. Minutes after Foye was moved the Blazers dealt him along with cash consideration to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the rights to Brandon Roy, the sixth overall pick.

This was the Blazers’ biggest move and it could end up as a really good move or a terrible one. First of all they lost their former 13th overall selection in Telfair. The future of the franchise was said to be riding on his shoulders, but apparently the coaching staff have some serious plans without him. Telfair was not achieving nearly as much success as he had advertised when he came out of Lincoln High School in New York.

Telfair will not be a big loss for the Blazers. The point guard position will now be in the capable hands of Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack and Juan Dixon. The biggest loss was Theo Ratliff. He never scored a lot of points and he never led his team to any comeback victories. However, he was a hard-nosed defender who had a knack for getting big blocks and turning momentum to the Blazers’ favor. At age 33, Ratliff would not be much more help than a bench player, so all in all the trade didn’t hurt Portland terribly unless Telfair decides to blossom and be better than both Aldridge and Roy.

Roy won the Pac-10 Player of the Year and took the University of Washington deep into the NCAA tournament until they met their demise at the hands of the University of Connecticut. During the season Roy averaged 20.2 points, 4. 1 assists and 5.6 rebounds for the Huskies. In the draft he was considered the most NBA-ready player available. Whereas a Tyrus Thomas or even Sebastian Telfair were drafted purely because they were spectacular prospects, Roy has all the skills to become an NBA star right away.

The Blazers were not done yet with their draft. For cash considerations, from the Phoenix Suns they acquired the 27th pick and guard Sergio Rodriguez from Spain. Then with the 30th overall pick, Portland took Joel Freeland, a 6-foot-10-inch forward from England. Deciding to go for imports hopefully means that Portland has had some extra European scouts who have found something they like.

Their final move was to take guard/forward James White out of Cincinnati with the 31st pick, who they then quickly dumped to Indiana for the 45th selection, Florida State forward Alexander Johnson, and two future second-round picks to replace the one they lost to the Celtics.

The overall trades upgraded the Blazers into a younger, overall more skilled team. It was good to get rid of at least one of the point guards. Although it would have been nicer to see Telfair develop into a solid pro, Roy and Aldridge give the Blazers more skills that can bring the Blazers back to glory.