The 2012 NBA Draft will commence at 4PM this evening, and there is but one draftee among those eligible who can single-handedly reverse the Portland Trail Blazers recent fortunes.
Wait... don't go, not just yet. Hear me out.
If you've been paying attention, you've heard the reports. He had a poor 2012 NCAA Tournament. He cannot create his own shot. He lacks consistency.
So he has some things to work on.
What often gets left out is that Barnes is one of the best offensive players in the draft, and that he has routinely wowed fans and experts alike with this wide array of offensive abilities, and has proven time and time again that he can make any shot from anywhere on the court. You Blazers fans out there who want to stop grieving the past and make good on the mistake that was drafting Greg Oden or even Sam Bowie over Kevin Durant and Michael Jordan?! This is your chance.
Weighing 228lbs on a 6'8” frame, Barnes has more than enough size to compete with any forward in the NBA, and his leaping ability as well as ball control make him a tough shooter to defend anywhere near the key.
To go with his size, strength, speed, and quickness; he has long-range shooting ability, is a great closer, and shows immense strength and toughness when finishing near the basket. He plays with a chip on his shoulder, and is very difficult to stop when he decides to take over a game.
Remind you of anyone?
Kobe Bryant? Carmelo Anthony? LeBron James? Michael Jordan himself? Perhaps.
Yes, he has offensive strengths comparable to some of the greatest talents in the game today, and he is still considered a raw player. Imagine the ceiling this guy has.
Portland has passed on future all-world talents before, and this would be a horrible mistake to continue to make. There simply is no such thing as a sure thing in the draft, and Barnes is no exception, but he brings plenty to the conversation.
The Blazers need a hot-shot young star to build around, and Barnes is it. He has the attitude, ability, and strength to put his talents against the best there is, and that is the guy the team needs.
Former Blazers Brandon Roy and Clyde Drexler were amazing athletes, and Barnes is almost in the mold of both of them. Drexler was a better inside player than outside shooter, and the opposite can be said of Roy. Both had tremendous overall talent, yet both had their signature shot. While Drexler's was the highlight-reel slam-dunk, Roy's was the stop-and-pop mid-range jumper. Barnes can do both.
How scary would that be Portland, to have a player who is bigger, faster, and taller than either Blazer great, and with their combined abilities?
I say pull that trigger. Make Barnes the next great player to don the Blazer uniform, the next amazing star in the NBA, and not just the next botched draft pick.
Many fans and experts would like to see Florida guard Bradley Beal in Portland, rumored to be the second coming of Ray Allen. The Northwest already had the real Ray Allen, and he didn't win anything worth mentioning except for a three-point shootout until forming a super team in Boston.
Besides that, Barnes has Ray's jumper. It's silky-smooth, and finds its target nearly half the time. Not bad for one of the most well rounded players in the draft.
I liked Barnes last year. Despite some setbacks and a slump or two, I liked him even more this year. He worked on his outside shot, and showed more toughness inside than he had the year previous. Barnes absolutely plays with a chip on his shoulder at times, however he as more than figured out how to play the game without getting angry, and that is a nice asset to have in a league that can really get inside of your head.
In my mind, he's absolutely worth trading up for, especially if Cleveland has eyes for him, as they are rumored to. That will be a call new Blazers GM Neil Olshey must make. You have to go for the best player available, regardless of need. Most experts will not agree with me, but Barnes is that player.
The draft picks are rumored to go Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, then Beal; leaving opportunity knocking at number four. If Portland can package both picks for say the number four and Anderson Verajao, and trade one of their two second round picks for perhaps even the Cavs' late first round or early second round pick, they would have their coveted big man and a shooter with a premiere scoring ability to go with some building blocks for their new roster.
Maybe you don't get a chance to go after Tyler Zeller, Andre Drummond, Kendall Marshall, or Damian Lillard. So you miss a chance or two. You still get one of the better big men from 2011-12, there are a handful of big men on the free agent market, and there is a slim chance someone comparable to Lillard or Marshall are available when you select late in the first or early in the second round.
It would be fantastic if Portland could get Barnes at number six and still get a young big man in Zeller or Drummond, or a highly skilled point guard in Marshall or Lillard, but those are some long odds. At the end of the day, a potential starting five of Jonny Flynn, Nicolas Batum, Harrison Barnes, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Anderson Verajao along with another first rounder or pair of second rounders wouldn't exactly be the end of days here in the Rose City.
The trick is to get the draft right. Draft great players with limited or no injury history. Guys who have good knees and even better potential.
Just don't botch this draft Mr. Olshey. I am not sure the city of Portland has any more sports fans' hearts to break, they've been shattering over long periods of basketball purgatory largely since 1979.
The old school of thought is that you draft for talent as opposed to need. What if a single player exemplifies both?
Well, in this case, Portland needs Barnes' talent.
Make it happen Mr. Olshey, you won't regret it.
Watch this clip . You decide for yourself if this is the future of the team. You won't be disappointed.
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