Blazers look to load up with four picks in today's NBA draft

PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers are known for draft-night surprises, so it's anyone's guess what they'll do today with four selections, including two lottery picks.

The team is rebuilding under new general manager Neil Olshey, who will make his first significant moves for the Blazers since he was hired earlier this month.

The past season was chaotic for the Blazers, who finished 28-38 and out of the playoffs for the first time in four years. The team was without a permanent GM, and coach Nate McMillan was fired before the season's end.

But, thanks in large part to several moves made by interim general manager Chad Buchanan, the Blazers have positioned themselves well for a makeover this offseason.

In addition to the four picks — the Blazers will make the sixth, 11th, 40th and 41st selections — Portland also has plenty of cap space available to make some moves during free agency.

The Blazers took an expected step on Monday, when they extended a qualifying offer to Nicolas Batum, who becomes a restricted free agent on July 1. The move means the Blazers can match any offer for the French forward, who has averaged 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds over four seasons in Portland.

Buchanan, the team's director of college scouting, who served as acting GM for a year while the Blazers delayed a decision on a permanent general manager because of the lockout, has been clear that the team's immediate needs in the offseason are a point guard and a center.

Olshey, who had been with the Clippers for nine years, oversaw a roster revamp last season that included the acquisition of Chris Paul, Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, and the re-signing of DeAndre Jordan. As a result, the invigorated Clippers finished 40-26 and reached the second round of the playoffs.

He faces the same type of overhaul with Portland.

"This is a seminal moment in the history of the Trail Blazers," Olshey said when he was hired. "We have to handle it properly."

In addition to the draft, Olshey also must hire a new coach. Kaleb Canales, who joined the Blazers as an unpaid intern in 2004, served as interim coach after McMillan was fired and has been conducting the team's pre-draft workouts.

Then there's free agency. Depending on what happens with Batum, the Blazers could have up to $24 million in cap space.

But first there's the draft, the first time Portland has had two lottery picks since the lottery was introduced in 1985.

The Blazers have said they are open to all possibilities concerning their selections. In a conference call with reporters following the lottery, Buchanan said the team would not necessarily draft for a specific need.

"We need to add talent to this roster," he said. "We're going to pick the best players available with those picks."

Portland has a history of making news in the draft. Last year the team made two significant trades, sending guard Andre Miller to Denver in exchange for Raymond Felton, and trading swingman Rudy Fernandez to Dallas.

The year before, the Blazers fired general manager Kevin Pritchard on draft night.

Share This Story