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Blazers hope to strike gold again in draft

June 26, 2013

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers hope to strike gold for a second consecutive year during Thursday night’s draft.

A year ago, Portland used the No. 6 pick to select Weber State guard Damian Lillard, who became the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. The Blazers pick at No. 10 this year.

What Blazers management has thought about this year’s draft in recent weeks is anyone’s guess. Portland general manager Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts haven’t spoken to the media since the team’s first individual draft workouts in late May. But Olshey has often said the team’s preference is to take the best available player over need.

The Blazers’ needs include a defensive-oriented post player and depth. During a season in which Portland went 33-49, starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Lillard ranked among the NBA’s top 10 in minutes played because of a thin bench.

Though some have tabbed this year’s draft as weak to average, the Blazers believe there are players available who can improve their roster.

“If your basketball staff is good, where we’re going to be picking, you should be able to find a pretty good player,” Blazers owner Paul Allen told reporters in April.

In preparing for the draft, the Blazers brought about 60 players to their practice facility for workouts. Among players expected to be high on Portland’s list for the No. 10 pick are guards C.J. McCollum of Lehigh and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia, forward Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA and center Cody Zeller of Indiana and Steven Adams of Pittsburgh.

Olshey, who became Portland’s general manager three weeks before the 2012 draft, has a mixed recent draft history.

Olshey hit a home run last year with the selection of Lillard, and as the Los Angeles Clippers’ GM, he grabbed all-star forward Blake Griffin with the No. 1 pick in 2009. But with the Clippers’ No. 8 pick in 2010, Olshey selected Al-Farouq Aminu, who was traded a year later to New Orleans. In 2011, the Clippers included their first-round pick in a trade with Cleveland, which became the No. 1 overall selection.

This is the second time in Portland franchise history that it has picked at No. 10.

In 1980, the Blazers selected Ron Lester at No. 10, then swapped the pick to Chicago. The No. 10 slot has yielded several prominent players in recent years, including Indiana’s Paul George (2010), Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings (2009) and Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez (2008).

In the second round, Portland has its own selection at No. 40. In addition, the Blazers have the No. 39 pick, acquired during a 2011 draft-day swap from Minnesota, as well as No. 45, obtained from Boston during a three-way trade in 2012.

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