We're only three days removed from the draft lottery and I've already changed my mind. If you had asked me a week ago what Kevin Pritchard and the Blazers Front Office All-Stars should do with their pick in the draft, I would have said trade it away. Bring in a savvy veteran. Lets make a playoff push in 2009. Don't get younger.
I think we should keep the pick.
Dwight Jaynes thinks the pick should be sent off. Wendell Maxley (though he'll alway be "Wendell Maxley Jr." to me) makes historical arguments for both options. Brian Hendrickson argues that it's a buyer's market for picks this year. All are rational conclusions to come to, but they don't really speak to the reason why I think No. 13 should be Blazer come the '08-'09 season.
I've come to the opinion that we should keep the pick by analyzing the reason others have put forth to trade the pick. It's been easy to do, as I was solidly in the "trade the pick" camp since making the playoffs in '07-'08 became an impossibility. So I'm going to run down what I figure are the most prevalent "trade the pick" arguments with my own rebuttal.
Argument: Trade the pick for a proven veteran.
Certainly not a bad idea, and it's rather hard to argue against if you could get a nice player, but I have doubts regarding what caliber of player could be obtained with the 13th pick, even with the addition of addition roster guys. And in practice, it doesn't seem to happen all that often. Vets Ray Allen and Jason Richardson were traded during last year's draft for picks and various filler, but those were for picks five (Jeff Green) and eight (Brendan Wright). Pick 13 doesn't have the same cache. And the only reason the Wright/Richardson deal happened was due to Charlotte being way under the cap, a luxury the Blazers don't have this year.
The Blazers need starters. I think we can all agree on that. Martell Webster, Travis Outlaw, Joel Przybilla, Blake/Jack/Rodriguez, James Jones and Channing Frye make up one hellava bench unit. But does any combination of these guys along with the No. 13 get you a starting point guard? A starting small forward? Maybe, but it seems unlikely.
Can you get a player who will start right away in this year's draft? Probably not. But could that player be a starter in '09-'10? I think so.
Argument: A rookie won't help us make the playoffs this season.
Again, the crux of this argument is hard to refute. Expecting a rookie to impact the Blazers enough to push them into the playoffs is a stretch. That is something an acquired veteran might be able to do.
But here's the thing for me: I don't care about making the playoffs. I care about winning championships. Do I want the Blazers to get to the postseason in '09? Hells yeah! But I also want them to win big when they get there. Making the playoffs without having any real chance of winning the whole thing, in my opinion, is next to meaningless. Playoff experience helps build a foundation on which championships are won, but so does young talent cultivated through a franchise's system.
I don't think the Blazers are going to win a championship next year. Or the year after that. But three years from now? I think that's a real possibility. Very real. A rookie in '08-'09 is a third-year player in '10-'11 who is accustomed to Nate McMillan's system and his teammates. And in three years, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden are your veterans.
Argument: A rookie won't be able to help this team in the near future.
This argument is a degree of the argument above. It's true that there is often a significant transitional period for rookies, but I would argue that this has more to do with lottery picks often playing for bad teams than it does with the player. The Blazers are in a unique position in that they're already an average to good team that happens to be in the lottery. The following is a list of players drafted in 2007 who are performed well on good teams.
Thaddeus Young (12th pick)
Julian Wright (13th pick)
Rodney Stuckey (15th pick)
Carl Landry (31st pick)
Glen Davis (35th pick)
Now expand that list to similar players from the 2006 draft.
Ronnie Brewer (14th pick)
Rajon Rondo (21st pick)
Jordon Farmar (26th pick)
Daniel Gibson (42nd pick)
Paul Milsap (46th pick)
Leon Powe (49th pick)
Not exactly an all-star team, but guys who play specific roles who are not asked to save their respective franchises. These are the kind of players we need and could utilize right away.
Argument: There are no impact players left at No. 13.
I simply disagree. The history of the 13th pick might not be all that impressive, but every year players fall to the second round who end up being solid to great players in the NBA. Trust in the Blazers scouting staff to figure out who could help this team down the road at No. 13.
Not to mention that KP rocks the draft. Period. Trading our top pick is like taking the ball out of the hands of your best player in crunch time.
The Blazers could use good veterans. Who couldn't? But if you take the long view, it just seems to me that getting the right guy out of the draft is a far better option in the long run. Trade existing players for veteran help, but use the No. 13 pick to add a young piece who will be a part of the team that wins a championship, not just a postseason birth.