Blazers GM Olshey high on his picks

NBA Commissioner David Stern, left, shakes hands with Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, who was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
NBA Commissioner David Stern, left, shakes hands with Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, who was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The picture is still very hazy as to what the Trail Blazers will look like when they open training camp on Sept. 30.

But after Thursday’s NBA draft, this much can be discerned:

• Portland will be young again. For now, the Blazers have five second-year players — Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland, though any of them but Lillard could be moved if needed in a trade general manager Neil Olshey seems destined to make.

And now it appears as if there will be three rookies — guards CJ McCollum and Allen Crabbe and center Jeff Withey, all drafted by the Blazers Thursday night.

If Portland retains veteran starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, that leaves four roster spots for Olshey to fill through trades and free agency.

• Olshey said after the draft the Blazers could have as much as $12 million available under the salary cap.

“There’s a lot of money out there, a lot of teams under the cap,” Olshey said. “I don’t know how much depth there is in free agency, but with that many teams at $10 million or more (under the cap), it’s a highly competitive marketplace. We’re going to have to prioritize. We don’t want to be left out in the cold.”

• Olshey and coach Terry Stotts seemed pleased with the selection of McCollum at No. 10, Crabbe at No. 31 and Withey at No. 39 in the draft.

“We got the guys we wanted, and some guys we didn’t think we’d have an opportunity to get,” Olshey said. “We addressed some backcourt and depth issues. Now we’ll get into summer league, add some veterans through free agency and trades and try to get a more competitive team on the floor next season. We need to help Terry so he doesn’t have to play a kiddie corps.”

• Olshey said Lillard and McCollum have a similar way of carrying themselves.

“CJ has a command presence on the floor,” Olshey said. “He has an incredible confidence. He can make plays off the dribble. He’ll be able to take over some of the ball-handling chores from Dame. When Eric Maynor came on and did that (midway through) last season, Dame’s efficiency went through the roof.”

Though the 6-4 McCollum played mostly shooting guard at Lehigh, “the ball was in his hands a lot, and he was making plays,” Stotts said. “He had a lot of responsibilities on that team.”

Stotts said he believes McCollum will be able to play with both Lillard and shooting guard Wesley Matthews.

“His versatility is going to be very important,” Stotts said. “Offensively, he’ll be able to complement our roster. Defensively, it’s a process for a young player, but he has good instincts, good length.”

• Olshey said he likes another thing about McCollum.

“He is a guy who really wanted to be here, from very early on in the process,” Portland’s second-year GM said. “His agent (Sam Goldfeder) is a close friend. We grew up together. He talked right away this is the best place for (McCollum). It’s a perfect fit.”

The Blazers had McCollum slotted higher than No. 10 on their draft board. Olshey wouldn’t specify, but when asked if it was in the seven-to-eight range, he nodded.

“Right in there,” he said. “We thought he was clearly the best talent on the board when we were selecting. We didn’t feel he’d get to us at (No.) 10. When he did, we were ecstatic.”

• The Blazers gave up two future second-round picks to acquire the first selection of Thursday’s second round in order to take Crabbe, a 6-6 junior from California who was the Pac-12 player of the year.

“Allen is an elite shooter,” Olshey said. “We value shooting. We had him much higher on the board, too, and he can play two positions (shooting guard and small forward). He was a nice grab for us.”

Olshey said the Blazers originally planned to keep only two draft picks but adjusted when the 7-foot Withey — who led the Big 12 in blocked shots the past two seasons at Kansas — was still available.

“Physically, he can play in our league right away,” Olshey said. “He can protect the rim and helps us rebuild our asset pool and extend our talent base.”

• The other player Portland chose Thursday night, 6-10 forward Marko Todorovic from Montenegro, has two years left on his contract in Spain and will remain there “for some grooming and seasoning,” Olshey said.

• The Blazers made no serious bid to move up in the draft.

“We didn’t have a lot of tools,” Olshey said. “That’s one of the issues we’re facing. The assets required to even make a one-spot jump in the top 10 is not something we have on our roster. That’s something we’re trying to do, be able to make more deals with more assets as we move forward. But it just wasn’t viable today.”
Twitter: @kerryeggers

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