A Tale of Two Northwest Cities
It'll be interesting to see where Seattle (or Oklahoma City) and Portland are at in five years. Actually, I take that back. I can already tell you that the Trail Blazers will have an NBA title and the SuperSonics will still be trying to reach the playoffs.
Why? Kevin Pritchard > Sam Presti and it's not even close.
You can't dispute how last year's first two picks played out, but how each team has handled this year's first selections will separate these two geographically close franchises for years to come.
Seattle needed either a true center or a point guard who could be a threat from outside to take some heat off of Kevin Durant. Instead, they drafted a combo guard who shot 33% from three-point range last season at UCLA. Russell Westbrook is a HUGE reach at No. 4. Do I think he's talented? Sure. First rounder? Absolutely. But 4th overall? For comparisons sake, Chris Paul was the 4th pick in 2005. That is an unreasonable comparison, but it goes to show you what you should still strive for that high in the draft.
If the Sonics couldn't move down, then Brook Lopez is great value that high. You've got a go-to guy in Durant, hopefully Jeff Green can be a nice compliment, and then Lopez could take care of the dirty work while still possessing an adequate array of offensive post moves to hold his own. Point guard was also a huge need, but since Durant still likes to play around the perimeter, it's my belief you want a guard who's a significant threat from outside as well, so that when Durant penetrates the opposing team is forced to sag off a bit. Jerryd Bayless can be that threat. He can't penetrate and run the fast break quite like Westbrook, but he can fill it up from anywhere and run the pick and roll with the best of them. The Sonics blew this high pick.
145 miles south, Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard is quietly (can we say that?) building a very promising team that will have home court advantage in the 2009 NBA Playoffs. He's got a center in Greg Oden, a power forward in LaMarcus Aldrige, quickly developing wings in Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster, and of course an All-Star guard in Brandon Roy. What's left? A point guard. Since Roy is capable of handling the ball, a pure ball handler is not a mandate, but one who can become a major threat on the top of the key and who sets up Oden and Aldrige turns the Blazers into an extremely difficult team to defend.
What does Pritchard do Thursday night? Get the perfect player for his system: Jerryd Bayless. Not to mention, he picks up Joey Dorsey and Darrell Arthur to add some excellent post bench players.
A lot of factors play into whether an organization is successful, but when these two teams are separated by 20 wins each of the next couple years, look no further than the last several draft nights.