Twenty-four hours had yet to pass on the draft lottery transformation of the Portland Trail Blazers, and general manager Kevin Pritchard and his staff already had brainstormed a most intriguing idea: If they're going to draft Greg Oden, they should take a hard look at making a trade to get Mike Conley Jr. to come with him.
So the discussion is under way, a source close to the team and Oden said Wednesday night, about trading into the top of the lottery for a second draft pick to secure the franchise center's personal point guard. It would be a brilliant, bold stroke for the Blazers G.M., and here's the thing: Pritchard has the parts and the imagination to make it happen.
Does Pritchard have enough with Zach Randolph, a 20-and-10 low post scorer and rebounder, and Jarrett Jack, a competent point guard, as the backbone of a major trade? As it looks now, the Blazers are determined to find out.
Oden and Conley have been together through AAU and high school ball in Indiana and a Final Four season at Ohio State. Before they even won the lottery Tuesday, the Blazers had done enough research on Oden to understand that to get the most out of this mild-mannered Midwestern prodigy he needs to be comfortable. He never has played without his best friend, Conley, who happens to be the best point guard in the draft.
Already Conley and Oden, who flew to Oregon on Wednesday for a meeting at Nike, privately are discussing the possibility of Portland crafting a deal to keep them together. While Oden understands it's still something of a reach, the fact that the Blazers immediately thought of trying to get Conley thrilled Oden.
After talking with confidants about Portland winning the No. 1 pick, Oden expressed relief that he was going to a smaller market. He never has been enamored with the bright lights and big city. He was born in Buffalo, raised in Indianapolis and had little appetite for the suffocating pressures of, say, Boston.
As for the Celtics, who sit miserably at No. 5, they logically should be one of the Blazers' most promising trade partners. Without Oden or Kevin Durant, G.M. Danny Ainge is wisest to look hard at packaging his pick and a young player or two for veterans. Yet there is the pending problem of Ainge agreeing to do a major trade with the Blazers after that draft-day disaster a year ago that left them without Roy or Randy Foye – and with Sebastian Telfair. Another issue muddling this possibility is that Randolph is too similar to the Celtics' Al Jefferson.
Even so, if Ainge is going to get duped again, you'd figure he isn't going to let it be Pritchard.
Truth be told, the Blazers might have to get the third overall pick out of Atlanta's hands to guarantee that they can get Conley. The Hawks could get their point guard at No. 9 with Acie Law and use the third pick to bring back a powerful inside presence in Randolph. Of course, Atlanta may not have the salaries to give back for the maxed-out Randolph, and that's where a third team could be useful.
Together, Oden and Conley are represented by Mike Conley Sr., who has aligned himself with Bill Duffy's BDA Management. Duffy is a powerbroker agent who can facilitate the kind of major trade needed to happen here, one which likely will need the involvement of a third team.
Whatever happens, Pritchard's imagination started churning the moment that pingpong ball bounced the Blazers' way Tuesday night. He's going to go through the motions of evaluating Oden and Durant, but it's inevitable he'll choose the center over the forward. As it looks now, his real work between now and draft day could come with getting Oden's personal point guard to the Blazers, too. It would be some story, some future.
- Greg Oden
- Kevin Pritchard