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The Problem With Forecasting NBA Player Futures

Saturday, April 18, 2015

 

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers

For every NBA fan who obsesses about each draft pick or trade, let’s turn to the upcoming Memphis-Portland playoff series to illustrate what a crapshoot forecasting player futures can be.

Before the 2007 Draft, all the talk turned on whether the Trail Blazers should use the #1 overall pick on Ohio State’s Greg Oden or Texas’ Kevin Durant. Oden or Durant? Durant or Oden? Trail Blazers fans – and national NBA pundits -- debated the selection for weeks.

The Trail Blazers chose Oden. Seattle – before moving to Oklahoma City in the 2008-09 season – chose Durant. 

ESPN’s analysis at the time of Oden? “He's the best player in the draft when you factor in position, defensive presence, ability to become an offensive force.”

Um, not so much. Eight years later, Oden is out of the league.

ESPN’s analysis at the time of Durant?  “The easiest pick in the draft. Durant is one of the most amazing scorers we've ever seen in a big man. He also can rebound and plays with amazing intensity.”

Right on point, but Durant this year is not even on one of the league’s 16 playoff teams, sitting out two-thirds of the past season with various injuries and his Oklahoma City Thunder missing out on the playoffs.

OK, that’s how the top question from the 2007 Draft s of “Oden or Durant” doesn’t even figure in this year’s playoffs. 

Now, here’s the flipside—how the lesser-known decisions from that draft eight years ago actually figure quite heavily in the Trail Blazers-Grizzlies series that starts Sunday.

Go to the #4 selection from the 2007 draft and you find Mike Conley Jr., Oden’s college teammate, chosen by the Grizzlies. Though heading into the 2015 playoffs with a foot injury, “all” this player chosen after Oden and Durant did this past season playing in three Memphis wins over Portland was average 19 points, 8.7 assists and six rebounds per game.

Go down one more selection to the #5 pick from 2007 and there’s Jeff Green, taken by Boston before being traded to Seattle , then ultimately re-acquired by Boston. Since Memphis traded for Green this past January, he has averaged more than 30 minutes a game for the Grizzlies.

Now slide down in the 2007 draft all the way to the #27 pick and who turns up but new Trail Blazer Arron Afflalo, chosen toward the back end of the first round by Detroit. Afllalo appeared to be a serendipitous midseason pickup this year at shooting guard once a torn Achilles tendon sidelined Portland stalwart Wesley Matthews for the season with. How Afflalo responds from his own shoulder injury will prove key to Portland’s depth in the Memphis series.

And perhaps the biggest factor from the 2007 draft in the upcoming Portland-Memphis matchup is the most unheralded-at-the-time pick, Marc Gasol. Then, Gasol was chosen by the Los Angeles Lakers with the 48th overall selection. Now, he is coming off his second All-Star Game as part of a season in which the slimmer Gasol led the Grizzlies in scoring.

Conley, Green, Afflalo, Gasol … plenty of players from the 2007 draft whom nobody would have imagined would have more impact than Oden or Durant in a postseason eight years later.

As if that weren’t enough to convince you of the league’s unexpected twists and turns, consider this prediction from ESPN in 2007 when the network was evaluating Oden: “… the Blazers are on the path to an NBA title with Oden, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.  Look for them to trade Zach Randolph soon to continue the rebuilding.”

Sadly, incorrect on the futures for Oden and Roy. Correct on the promising future for Aldridge and the trade of Randolph … who eight years ago looked on the downside of his career. He “only” led the Grizzlies in rebounding this last season.

Like I said, a total crapshoot.

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s 15 Hottest Athletes

In case you've never noticed we have plenty of attractive athletes representing the state of Oregon. Here are GoLocalPDX's Top 15 in no particular order.

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Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, 25, is a forward for the Portland Thorns. She recently signed with the club in January of 2013 after playing for the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Sounders. She rose to prominence because of her success playing for the United States women’s national soccer team. Morgan was the youngest player to represent the U.S. during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She will once again represent team USA this summer as they prepare to head off to Canada for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

 

Photo credit: Alex Morgan's Facebook page

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Meyers Leonard

Meyers Leonard, 23, was the 11th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Over the past few years he has been diligently working with the Portland Trailblazer’s coaching staff in order to refine his game. The Illinois alumni’s hard work has been paying off considering he’s having the best season of his career. 

 

Photo credit: Meyers Leonard's Facebook page

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Kaylyn Kyle

Kaylyn Kyle, 26, is a Canadian soccer player who currently plays for the Portland Thorns. She is also a member of the Canadian women’s national team. Kyle was part of the 2012 Canadian national team that defeated France in the bronze medal game. She is also an ambassador for, Right To Play, which is an organization dedicated to using soccer as a resource to educate and empower children from disadvantaged communities.

 

Photo credit: Kaylyn Kyle's Facebook page

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Gaston Fernandez

Gaston Fernandez, 31, is a striker for the Portland Timbers. The club signed the Argentinian striker back in January of 2014. During his MLS debut with the Timbers he scored an equalizer goal that extended the Timbers unbeaten home record to sixteen. 

 

Photo credit: via forums.bigsoccer.com

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Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota, 21, is coming off one of the best seasons any Oregon Duck quarterback has ever experienced. He is the first Hawaiian-born athlete to ever win the Heisman trophy. This season he also led the Ducks to a 12-1 regular season record. Duck fans everywhere will be anxiously waiting to see where Mariota goes in this year’s NFL Draft. 

 

Photo credit: via Oregon Football's Facebook page

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Ellie Cribbins

Ellie Cribbins is a second year Blazer Dancer for the Portland Trailblazers. Cribbins is originally from Portland, Oregon but attended Oregon State University. This season proved to be a unique one for Cribbins since her sister also made the Blazer Dancers last August.

 

Photo credit: via Ellie Cribbin's Facebook page

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Jake Gleeson

Jake Gleeson, 24, is a New Zealand born goalie that is currently playing for the Portland Timbers. He signed with the club in February of 2011. Gleeson has taken pride over the past few years of being a young player who has worked his way up the ranks. 

 

Photo credit: via solofutbol.cl

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Janie Takeda

Janie Takeda, 21, is a senior outfielder for the University of Oregon. The Dallas Charge of the National Pro Fastpitch League recently drafted her 26th overall. Takeda was also selected to play on the United States women’s national team during the 2015 summer season. She is set to graduate from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication this spring. 

 

Photo credit: Janie Takeda's Facebook page

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Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard, 24, was the NBA’s 2012 Rookie Of The Year. He was the 4th Portland Trailblazer to ever win the award. Since then he’s been named an All-Star twice, as well as an All-NBA Third Team selection. Lillard had one of the most rememberable performances in Trailblazer history after he hit a three-pointer that defeated the Houston Rockets in game 6 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.

 

Photo credit: Damian Lillard's Facebook page

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Maggie Rouse

Maggie Rouse, 20, is a junior cheerleader for the University of Oregon. She just completed her third year on the team. When she tried out as a freshman she never expected to make the squad. Yet, here she is two years later. She is currently majoring in Educational Foundations. 

 

Photo credit: Maggie Rouse's Facebook page

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LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge, 29, is widely considered to be one of the best power-forwards in the NBA. The Texas native is averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season for the Portland Trailblazers. He is also a four-time NBA All-Star. On March 10th, 2015 Aldridge became the Trailblazers all-time leading rebounder.

 

Photo credit: LaMarcus Aldridge's Facebook page

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Kaytianna McMillan

Kaytianna McMillan is a gymnast for the Oregon State Beavers. Over the course of 2014 McMillan battled a series of injuries, yet she was still able to overcome them in order to become the Co-Champion of the 2014 NCAA University Park Regionals. Oregon State will be lucky to have her for the next couple of years.

 

Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics website

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Devon Allen

Devon Allen, 20, just completed his freshman year as a wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks. Not only is he the starting wide receiver for the Ducks he also runs track for the Oregon Outdoor Track and Field team. He recently earned a Gold Medal in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Although he is recovering from a torn ACL we hope to see him back on the field during the 2015-2016 season.

 

Phot credit: University of Oregon Facebook page

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Chase De Leo

Chase De Leo, 19, currently plays center for the Portland Winterhawks. His quickness and overall creative offensive game earned him an invite to Team USA’s selection camp back in December of 2014. Of all 30 players who were invited, he was only one of 2 WHL players.

 

Photo credit: Chase De Leo's Facebook page

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Darron Thomas

Darron Thomas, 24, is a professional quarterback for the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. During his college days he played for the Oregon Ducks. While starting for the Ducks he led to the team to the 2011 BCS National Championship game, as well as the 2012 Rose Bowl. The Texas native recently partook in the NFL Veteran Combine with the hope of upstarting his NFL career.

 

Photo credit: Portland Thunder Facebook page

 
 

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