The first-ever Clips Nation Community Mock Draft was yesterday, and it was a great success. We had almost perfect attendance, and all of our GMs had a great afternoon of trades, picks, and everything in between.
Our most successful GM was clearly FlyByKnight of the Portland Trail Blazers. He made smart picks and shrewd trades which moved Portland from the lottery to a true contender next season.
The day after his amazing draft, I spoke with him about the draft. Q&A is coming up.
LJ Hann: What were you looking to accomplish in the mock draft?
My aim in this was to improve the overall standing, from both a competitive and talent standpoint, of the Portland Trail Blazers. To, essentially, give them an identity. To show the rest of the basketball world that the Pacific Northwest can be home to a great franchise and a great team once again. To build a world champion, so to speak.
LJH: What holes were you looking to fill in your roster and how effective do you think that you were in filling these holes?
I definitely needed a point guard. I needed someone who could handle the scoring load on the perimeter as well as be a distributor for a guy like LaMarcus Aldridge. I needed a center. I wasn't comfortable with the center situation at the end of the season and needed a major improvement there. I think I filled both of those holes quite well. I got the point guard I desperately wanted in Damian Lillard. I actually was able to trade down in the draft and still get him. With those added assets, I was able to trade for Dwight Howard, the league's premier center, and fill the two biggest holes on the team. They fit right in there with Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, our two franchise players. Our front line is now incredibly formidable and our backcourt is also strengthened by the addition of not only Lillard but also Orlando Johnson, who we got with the 28th pick after dealing Robin Lopez, one of the assets in the Lillard deal. All-in-all, the holes were filled quite well. It was sad to say goodbye to a tough, team player like Wesley Matthews but we wish him the best in Orlando. Business is business and the move made basketball sense.
LJH: Explain your rationale behind the trade you made with the Suns, and describe how whether you found the effects of that trade successful.
Assets. It's all about assets. The more assets you have, the more attractive you look. It's like a woman. The more beautiful the woman is, the more intriguing she is. The more advanced her personality is, the greater the suitors she finds. It's all in that same relativity. By dealing the 6th pick for the 9th and 13th pick, we added another lottery selection despite moving down just 3 slots. Anytime you do that, you welcome the move. You have to be able to part with pieces that you didn't want to part with in the first place. It's all a business model. Dealing Jamal Crawford was a must for us. Yes, he's in the last year of his deal because of the player option but picking up a guy like Robin Lopez and a guard like Shannon Brown was okay. You have to look at it as two separate deals, really. It's 6th overall for 9th overall and 13th overall. It's Jamal Crawford for Robin Lopez and Shannon Brown. I think the trade helped us greatly. We still got the player we were gonna take 6th at 9th and we were able to flip our own first rounder, 11th, with the 13th from Phoenix along with Wesley Matthews for Dwight Howard. I found the trade very successful.
LJH: Describe the negotiation process in the Dwight Howard trade.
In short, tumultuous. There were talks of me keeping a pick and sending back more players. There were talks of the two second round picks I had being sent and allowing me to keep one of the first round picks. There were just a lot of variables at play in a short period of time and it became quite hectic but, in the end, everything got hashed out and the deal he initially wanted was made. He wanted usable cap space for the present instead of a year down the road which is why I think other deals weren't accepted. At one point, there were able eight or nine assets being sent from Portland to Orlando before it was whittled down to three. So, it was a pretty interesting ordeal.
LJH: Why did you dump players like Shannon Brown and Robin Lopez?
The price was right. After the Dwight Howard trade, we were left with Robin Lopez as a backup center and felt he needed the opportunity to start. We also had a little bit of a hole at shooting guard. That's why we made the deal for the 28th pick since Orlando Johnson, our top choice at that spot, was still there. In Orlando Johnson we got a 6'5" shooting guard who can not only score the ball from anywhere on the court, but he can also handle the ball, pass the ball, and rebound. He's a capable defender, great spot-up shooter, and is not a shot-chucker. He plays within the offense and is just a team guy. It made sense to pair him in the backcourt with the 9th pick in the draft, Damian Lillard. As for Shannon Brown, we had a little bit of an overflow with guards and felt like dealing for Ersan Ilyasova and the 42nd pick was a no-brainer. I like Brown's game but with Lillard, Johnson, Williams, and Smith in the backcourt already, we were pretty young and felt like Brown could thrive elsewhere. We want our young guys to get ample playing time. Ilyasova is a stretch big but also a tough big. He does the dirty work and plays hard. The 42nd pick is a great asset for us. We gave up our two second round picks to Orlando for their 2013 1st round pick (Top 3 protected) and getting a second rounder back of equal value in the Brown deal was something we look at as a tipping point. We can go a ton of directions with that pick and I'm confident when I say that whoever we pick there will probably make the roster.
LJH: What are your expectations for this team next season and in the future?
Next season, I look at us as a team that's capable of winning a championship. I'm not going to say it's championship or bust. It's not. There's still a lot of room to grow and I think next year this team is capable of winning a championship despite that. However, it's also a long-term plan. Down the road this team is going to be able to grow together, compete together, and, ultimately, win together. The guys we picked up are going to help us win. By pairing guys like Damian Lillard, Orlando Johnson, and Dwight Howard with Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge, we have a foundation in place that will make Portland a basketball mecca. Whether or not Dwight Howard stays in Portland for more than one season I'm sure will be a talking point amongst the media but that doesn't concern us. Dwight Howard will help us win now. The guys we picked up in the draft can help us win now. And then they will help us win in the future. We're looking for impact guys. We got them. We're looking for playmakers. We got them. We're looking for toughness. We got it. We have all the pieces to win a championship and now it's time to put it together on the court. It's time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and complete the full picture.
No. Our goals have not been met. Winning is the only goal that matters. What we did was create the possibility of meeting that goal. If I were to look back 24 hours ago, just before the draft, and evaluate the team then compared to the team now, all those moves did was get us closer to our goal. The team prior to the draft wasn't a winning team. The team after the draft is. It's a winning product. One the fans of Portland will be happy to root for. Let me ask this. How do you stop the offense in Portland now? How would you stop it? Honestly. There's not an answer. Not yet. Maybe not ever. We have a low-post option in Howard, a low-post and high-post option in Aldridge, a wing option in Batum, and two great guards who can both handle the ball, dish it, and score. Unless you play amazing team defense, you're not stopping this offense. Not one bit.
Anytime. And don't forget, I might see you in the lottery next year .. but with Orlando's pick. This team could be looking quite interesting after that.