The Blazers traded back-up guard Jerryd Bayless to the Hornets on Saturday for a conditional first-round draft pick.
The conventional wisdom is that New Orleans did alright for themselves in the deal; Bayless has top-end speed and athleticism for the NBA, is impossible to guard in iso situations and consequently gets to the line more times per field goal attempt than almost anyone else in the league, is tenacious enough to provide some decent D against other elite speedsters, and is young enough he’s still improving his feel for the game. He’s bound to get more time on the court with the Hornets than he would have with the Blazers since NOLA’s only legitimate rotational guard is Chris Paul. In Portland, he was sitting behind Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, and Wesley Mathews – at least.
I can’t disagree with any of this and do believe he’s in a better situation now. Bayless should benefit, the Hornets should benefit, cool. The other question no one is pondering, though, is what did the Blazers get? They literally landed New Orleans first-round draft pick in 2011 (top-7 protected), which becomes a top-8 protected pick sometime in the following three years if the Hornets do indeed end up with one of the first seven selections next summer. This could mean a lot more for the Trail Blazers than most people realize.
It’s a rather inexact science, but we can safely predict the Hornets will end up with approximately the 10th pick in the draft (barring the great luck of winning one of the top three spots). If this is the case, Portland gets the pick. Why 10th? It’s doubtful their collection of talent can earn them a playoff bid in the West. They’ll certainly do worse than LA, Dallas, San Antonio, Utah, Oklahoma City, Portland, and Denver. That leaves them at best duking it out with Phoenix, Houston, and Memphis for that final playoff spot. Not great odds. And assuming they do miss the playoffs, they’re already assured one of the first 14 picks. So how many teams can we reasonably expect to do worse than the Hornets, which would earn these clubs a higher pick in the draft? In the West, at least Minnesota, LA Clippers, Golden State, and Sacramento. The East is then good for at least 5 to 7 sub-good-at-all clubs. I know there’s a lot of unknowns and craziness than can happen to completely wreck what I just said, but I’m in the logical ballpark if I say the Hornets’ pick will be around #10 to #12.
Here’s where new Blazers’ GM Rich Cho has to earn his keep. The 2011 draft is not expected to yield much. A #11-ish pick probably won’t get Portland what they need, which is a strong-bodied and skilled PF to provide the yin to LaMarcus Aldridge’s mid-range jumpers shooting (and way too many games with 3 to 6 rebounds) yang. They have some strong centers who can withstand and deliver punishment in the paint—namely Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla—but none who have been healthy of late. They know they’re susceptible to teams with interior muscle, which is why they went after Paul Millsap last year.
So do any of these exist in the draft - big dudes who will remind fans of physical ass kickers like Millsap, Carlos Boozer, Zach Randolph, or Al Horford? Yes, but only two of them: Enes Kanter, a Turkish freshman at Kentucky, and Jared Sullinger, a freshman Millsap-clone at Ohio State. I’m leaving Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney out of this because he’s a massive headcase. The problem is that both Kanter and Sullinger could be top-5 selections (Sullinger is the one who’s more likely to fall, maybe as low as #12). But if the Blazers have a #10-12 pick and their own #20 or so pick, then they have a potential trade up on their hands. Anything less than a trade-up for this position of obvious need--especially with two players of Kanter and Sullinger's caliber in this draft--could turn out to be nothing but a waste.
If the Hornets do just bad/good enough to give Portland a pick in the early double-digits (likely), and Cho can then flip his franchise’s two picks for one around #5, 6, or 7 (reasonable), Portland could finally end up with the physical back-up they’ve needed for Aldridge, which could double as a part-time inside/not-as-inside combo for stretches depending on the opponent. I hope the Blazers know what they're doing with this Bayless trade because it certainly appears that New Orleans has a plan.