NBA Draft doomsday

The Portland Trailblazers have a unique opportunity with the third pick in the NBA draft. The opportunity is a chance for redemption from one of the most colossal blunders in NBA draft history, when the Blazers selected Sam Bowie, a 7-foot-1 center from Kentucky ahead of an athletic two-guard named Michael Jordan. In case you’ve forgotten, Mike won six championship rings and Bowie floundered before dropping out of the league completely. Blazer fans were left to fantasize about a backcourt pairing of Clyde Drexler and MJ.

The Blazers certainly don’t expect this year’s third pick to lead them back to an NBA championship, but a return to the playoffs after a two year absence would be a welcome relief to the dwindling Rip City faithful and the beleaguered front office. The only question now is who is the Bowie and who is the potential superstar, a question surprisingly easy to answer this year.

There are no immediate “just add water” superstars in this draft’s top five. However, there are a group of five to seven players that the Blazers would love to draft, each bringing a unique skill set to the table. But Portland can only have one, and it’s up to Blazer GM John Nash to choose wisely.

Nash’s job is made easier because the Blazers will only draft a couple players through divine intervention. Hulking Utah center Andrew Bogut is projected by most to go number one to the Milwaukee Bucks, leaving talented UNC phenom Marvin Williams for the Atlanta Hawks at number two. But the Hawks desperately need a point guard, and there are several “ones” that might sway them away from Williams.

Wake Forest guard Chris Paul is a leading candidate to drop Williams into the Blazers lap. Paul is a deadly shooter and has the handles and leadership ability to be a solid guard in the NBA for years to come. However, he suffers from Damon Stoudamire syndrome, meaning at 5 feet 11 inches he is too short to ever really be a superstar. It is doubtful the Blazers will draft Paul, as he refused to workout for the team prior to the draft.

Another guard that has excited the Blazers in particular is Illinois guard Deron Williams, a bulky 6-foot-3 point-man that would give the team flexibility in the backcourt. Williams is an excellent on the ball defender and hit clutch shots throughout this year’s NCAA tourney. Williams impressed Blazers brass in individual workouts, though he may not warrant the third pick.

If the Blazers decide to draft a high school player, they have a few talented shooting guards to choose from, including Houston youngster Gerald Green, who has caught the eye of Nash and Co. Green is a skinny kid who can jump out of the building and finish hard on the break. Think Travis Outlaw with some more defense and a reliable jump shot.

He is a definite talent and very intriguing, especially considering that the Blazers want to follow the Phoenix Suns model of basketball (namely running and shooting a lot). But scouts have reported that Green has a lazy, “I’ll do whatever I want, when I want” streak, and the Blazers don’t need another 18-year-old kid who thinks he’s too good for Portland. Even so, his stock is rising and the Blazers might favor a tall, athletic shooting guard over another point man.

With all the high profile names in the draft this year, three stand out. Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams and Chris Paul should go one-two-three Tuesday. However I have the suspicion the Blazers will select Gerald Green with the third pick, or trade down in the draft to gain more flexibility. Either way, there are no Michael Jordans in the top five this year. Luckily there isn’t a Sam Bowie either.

(Editor’s note: The NBA draft was Tuesday night. Results were not available at the time of printing. E-mail Owen Smith at [email protected] to tell him how wrong he was.)