Originally written on Oregon Sports News  |  Last updated 11/9/14
It is well known that what separates the Portland Trail Blazers from being a bona fide playoff contending team and a pretending playoff team is their bench. What is disheartening is that their bench is home to a number of their recent first round draft choices. One of those former first round picks is point guard Nolan Smith, the Blazers 21st selection from Duke in the 2011 NBA Draft. Over the course of last season and for most of this season, Smith has been a disappointment. The 2011-12 season was a debacle for all Blazers involved. It was expected that in a lockout shortened year in which Nate McMillan, the Blazers’ head coach, was fired, it would be hard for any rookie to find a groove. The hope was that Smith would battle this year’s first round pick Damian Lillard for the starting point guard spot. Obviously Lillard left Smith at the starting line. But not only did Smith not push Lillard for the starting spot, he hasn’t played well enough to deserve back up minutes. However, in February, Smith seems to be finding a rhythm and a sense of place. In the three games this month, Smith is averaging 6.7 ppg and 2 apg. Against the Utah Jazz on Saturday at the Rose Garden Smith shot 71% from the field including 2-3 on three point field goals to finish with 13 points. On Monday evening against the Minnesota Timberwolves, in just 10 minutes of play, Smith shot 66% for 7 points and 1 for 1 on 3 pointers, as well as 3 assists. His play of late has been efficient and aggressive. It would be a surprise if the Blazers have already written off Nolan Smith.  First round picks are an investment. Despite Lillard’s rise to prominence in the Blazer backcourt, it would be a nice luxury to have Smith become a guy who can come off the bench and provide energy, good passing and efficient scoring. How the Blazers plan to handle Smith during the offseason will be interesting.  He becomes a free agent this summer. It is obvious that he will be playing behind Damian Lillard for the foreseeable future. Smith has a lot to prove down the stretch this season. He is auditioning if not for the Blazers’ backup point guard spot, possibly a starter or backup on another team. For the sake of both the Blazers and Nolan Smith, it would be a pleasant surprise for him to come into his own during the remainder of this season. Retaining first round picks and having them develop is something the Blazers have struggled with over the past few seasons. It would be fun to watch Smith carve a niche coming off the Blazers bench.  Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdx

Browns owner sends stern message to Johnny Manziel

Report: Ray Allen is leaning toward retirement

Ravens clinch playoff spot

DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant set Cowboys records in win

Report: Browns feel Josh Gordon 'has to go'

Jets contacted Rex Ryan's agent about replacements for him


Justin Gilbert inactive after being late to team meeting

Report: Browns had to search for Manziel after he threw party

Report: Jim Harbaugh to Michigan is done deal

Amari Cooper not a fan of New Orleans, thinks it smells

WATCH: Jennifer Lawrence does Louisville chant at game

WATCH: Did Bret Bielema do ‘Horns Down’ gesture?

Eric Decker's wife was concerned about hubby's groin

WATCH: Lamar Miller has longest TD run in Dolphins history

WATCH: Pats fans serenade Pete Frates with 'Happy Birthday'

Harbaugh rumors affecting Michigan basketball ticket prices?

WATCH: Dez Bryant burns Redskins defender for TD

Detroit bar offering free food, booze if Lions beat Packers

Jameis Winston: I would throw in Richard Sherman's direction

WATCH: Nebraska safety pukes on field, keeps playing

WATCH: Nyquist holds puck for 28 seconds, scores OT winner

WATCH: Kevin Garnett blows in David West's ear

WATCH: Frank Beamer busts a move after bowl win

Bears could clean house after season

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Browns owner sends message to Manziel

Ray Allen leaning toward retirement?

Ravens clinch playoff spot

Murray, Bryant set team records

Pats fans serenade Pete Frates

Browns to part ways with Josh Gordon?

Manziel was late after throwing party?

Amari Cooper not a fan of New Orleans

Harbaugh to Mich. is done deal

WATCH: Jennifer Lawrence supports Louisville with chant

Did Bielema do ‘Horns Down’?

WATCH: Beamer busts a move

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.