The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the teams most affected by the injury bug last season. The Blazers were forced to waive former number one pick Greg Oden after he underwent yet another micro fracture surgery in mid-February, and that was just the start of their troubles.
Losing a number one pick wasn't even the worst news. Portland had been surviving with limited use of Oden for years, what really stung the team was the knee injury to young superstar Brandon Roy. Roy announced before the season started that his knees had degenerated to a point where there was no cartilage in them and his condition forced him to retire.
The Blazers lost two former first-round picks before the All-Star break, and things were not looking good in Portland. After a surprising 7-2 start, they were sent into free-fall thanks to inconsistent play from everyone not named Lamarcus Aldridge. In response, the Blazers chose to free up future cap-space by trading away Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace.
This summer the Trail Blazers have a new General Manager in Neil Olshey and two top 15 picks in this deep upcoming draft. Here's a look at a few players that Portland is reportedly looking at when it selects at six and 11.
Simply put, Andre Drummond is a freak athlete. At seven feet tall and boasting a seven-foot-six wingspan, he is the physical archetype of a Hall of Fame caliber center that can deliver dominating post play for years to come.
For all of his athletic gifts though, Drummond lacks a basketball mind. He will turn 19 in two months and there are concerns about his consistency, maturity, and ability to impose his will on the game. With some hard work and great coaching, he could be one of the great big men in the NBA. The Blazers should watch out though, as Drummond is around the same size and weight as Greg Oden, and Portland has a history of drafting injury-ridden big men (Oden, Bill Walton).
ESPN's Chad Ford has Portland picking this Weber State point guard with the number six pick in the draft. Point guard was a problem position for Portland last season, and Lilard has all the tools to be the offensive creator of the future for the Trail Blazers.
To start, Lilard put up 24.5 points per game last season and has the added advantage of playing four years at the college level to fine-tune his game. He is an excellent three point shooter and a solid rebounder and can be counted on to shoulder the burden as a leader. He was the driving force on the Weber State Wildcats leading them in scoring and assists while playing 34.5 minutes per game last season.
The son of Boston Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers, the Duke product is one of the most polarizing players in the draft, with some experts ranking him in their top 10, and other regarding him as a second round talent. A six-foot-five shooting guard has what many have called a killer crossover, and is one of the quickest players available.
Rivers lacks an explosive leaping ability though, and his shot selection is shoddy at best for an NBA player. He would benefit for more years under Mike Krzyzewski, but the NBA could be the place where he takes his game to the next level. He has all the tools to be at least a starting guard in the league; the question is if he can use them correctly.
The other center on Portland's radar features a much more cultivated game than UConn's Drummond. Zeller was a four year player at North Carolina and raised his game every season. He finished last year with 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in a very competitive ACC. He is a true seven-footer that can protect the basket, run the floor, and has a solid jump shot inside 20 feet.
Zeller is just about the polar opposite of Drummond as a big man. He weighs 40 pounds less than his younger counterpart, and relies on good positioning over raw athleticism. However, some scouts seem to think he has already reached his ceiling and the 22-year old will have a lot to prove in the NBA.
Taking Ross would be seen as a reach with Portland's first pick, but the team could take him eleventh overall. This six-foot-seven shooting guard has great size and is an incredibly explosive athlete known for his emphatic dunks. He's also a very good shooter with long range and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
What is said to be lacking from Ross's game is good handle on the basketball. He is also known to defer to teammates too much and needs to work on his mid-range game. After two years playing for the Washington Huskies it will be exciting to see if Ross's game can translate to the NBA or if he will be just another glorified, high-flying, dunk-specialist.