SLAMonline Mock Draft: Eric Bledsoe, No. 22
The fifth Kentucky Wildcat is off the board.
by Nick Rattner
Given the trail of woe the Blazers burnished last season, sticking to Kevin Pritchard’s best-left NBA Draft philosophy makes the most sense. As top front office assistant Chad Buchanan succinctly put it, “our needs in 6 months may be different from our needs now.” Rose Garden denizens pray a trembling storm of injury will stay far from their door; they pray Nate McMillan won’t have to pull another 50 victories from his hat.
Whether the Blazers draft for trade considerations or for an immediate contribution to next year’s lineup, they will pick the best remaining player in the draft pool and develop their strategy from there. Because the Trail Blazers needs are varied, as noted by Buchanan, the options of choosing a point guard or a small forward or a 7-footer remain equally viable.
If the Blazers draft big, their new center would make the deep frontcourt of Oden, Przybilla, and Camby nearly fathomless. They would then be able either to trade a big man for another piece while remaining strong in the paint or mount one of the most formidable frontcourts in the game. In the post, the Blazers could improve their offensive rebounding and defensive acuity by picking up either Solomon Alabi or Larry Sanders.
If the Blazers draft small, they could bolster the point guard, granting Andre Miller his long-awaited heir. That young squire would not only benefit from Miller’s tutelage (imagine an athletically gifted youngster with the court-read of elder Miller), he would reduce Miller’s minutes, ensuring that the master of the basic game (Cam’ron) could steward his squad in to summer. With the addition of a three, especially a sharp shooter, they could then ship a stock-sunk Rudy Fernandez and still have several scorers coming off the bench. If Fernandez is retained, then he may feel some extra pressure to perform.
Given all this…
With the 22nd pick in the 2010 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers select…
Eric Bledsoe from the University of Kentucky.
Beldsoe is the best remaining player in the SLAMonline Mock Draft. He is also the best match for Portland’s needs and Rose Garden style. His highly rated athleticism, slashing style, and strong finishing potentially make him a perfect match for Portland’s roster. He will form a nice counterpart to Miller’s slow-and-steady game while benefiting greatly from Miller’s example and from the teachings of Nate McMillan. In the best-case scenario, he could, after one season cutting his teeth, take the elder guard’s place as the fifth starter. Pritchard’s dream roster would then be a reality. Of course, given some of his troubles and unknowns, he could also signal a return to the less-glorious regions of Blazer past.
Beldsoe is a strong finisher with a strong, solid frame. At 19, he is still growing. His speed and leaping ability trail only just behind John Wall’s. His counterpart in the backcourt attracted such attention that he played outside the focus of many scouts and fans during the season, but at the Draft combines he has proven what several knew all along: he is an NBA caliber athlete.
Though Bledsoe posted only descent numbers (11.3ppg, 2.9apg, 3.1rpg) during the season, the opening round game of the NCAA Tournament against Eastern Tennessee State provided a sample of the No. 2 Wildcat guard’s capability. Bledsoe went for 29 on 9-11 shooting, knocking down 8-9 from long range. His shooting ability will help the Blazers spread the wings, opening up scoring for whomever is on the floor. If he were on the floor with Roy, the Blazers would have one of the best slashing offenses in the game. It would be a nightmare to keep them out of the paint and terror to guard them on the arc.
Bledsoe’s length and quickness suggest he could be an excellent defender. He showed signs during the season that he could carve out such a role for himself. Still, this part of his game has yet to come in to fruition and remains somewhat of an unknown. With a strong commitment, his talent could help him become a great perimeter defender, something the Blazers desperately need.
But despite his great talent, Bledsoe still represents a risk. In the Wildcat’s final game in the Dance against West Virginia, he shot 3-9 for 7 points. In addition, playing behind Wall all last season he didn’t develop his playmaking abilities. At 6-1 he will surely run point in the League. At Kentucky, he rarely had to work to get himself open and instead could let the offense open up for him. When he did run the offense, things didn’t always go well. Various rubrics show that he turned the ball over anywhere from 22-32 percent of his possessions, the highest such figures for any prospect at his position. This confirms for some that he has a tendency to play out of control. Yet, these drawbacks all represent the other side of the coin: he is a great spot-up shooter, resembles the Flash when in full sprint, and has only begun to develop as a point guard.
The fact of the matter is that Bledsoe’s capabilities are largely unknown. He is young and athletically gifted, he has played for a successful coach in pressure situations, and he has shown in the camps that he is physically ready for the next level. In other words, he has everything he needs. In the right atmosphere, with the right coaching and the right examples, and with the right commitment to getting better and winning, Bledsoe could become a capable if not excellent point guard. That could happen in as short a time as a single season. It’s a gamble that includes many variables, but it’s one the Blazers should be wiling to take. If it works out favorably, they confetti could be falling on the petals of the parquet Rose in one year’s time.
|2010 SLAMonline Mock Draft|
|1||Washington||John Wall||16||Minnesota||Damion James|
|2||Philadelphia||Evan Turner||17||Chicago||James Anderson|
|3||New Jersey||Derrick Favors||18||Miami||Avery Bradley|
|4||Minnesota||DeMarcus Cousins||19||Boston||Jordan Crawford|
|5||Sacramento||Greg Monroe||20||San Antonio||Hassan Whiteside|
|6||Golden State||Wesley Johnson||21||OKC||Daniel Orton|
|7||Detroit||Ed Davis||22||Portland||Eric Bledsoe|
|8||L.A. Clippers||Al-Farouq Aminu||23||Minnesota|
|11||New Orleans||Gordon Hayward||26||OKC|
|12||Memphis||Luke Babbitt||27||New Jersey|