Business as usual as Blazers prepare for draft

TUALATIN, Ore. — The big night is still more than three weeks away.

But after whittling an initial list of an estimated 450 names down to about 10, Chad Buchanan, Portland Trail Blazers director of college scouting, said the team is on target and exactly where it needs to be as a June 24 date for the 2010 NBA Draft approaches.

The Blazers hold the No. 22 overall pick in the first round, and the No. 44 overall selection in the second round.

Buchanan compared Portland’s draft-pick player evaluations to the way a funnel dispenses water. And after months spent grading talent and checking off a multitude of names, the Blazers have now locked in on a few ideal choices.

A six-player workout held Tuesday at the team’s practice facility, featuring former Stanford forward Landry Fields and Vermont forward Marqus Blakely, further sharpened Portland’s vision.

None of the six players who took the court are considered likely first-round picks. But Buchanan said a second-round selection must only possess one highly valuable skill that can eventually be traded for NBA playing time. And after strong showings last season by Blazer rookie forwards Jeff Pendergraph and Dante Cunningham — both of whom were originally chosen in the second round of the 2009 draft — Portland viewed Tuesday’s workout with open eyes.

“A couple of those guys had it today,” Buchanan said.

The Blazers’ ability to post back-to-back 50-win seasons has had a reverse effect on the franchise’s draft positioning. After either drafting or trading for stars Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden and Martell Webster in the early first round from 2005-07, Portland has recently become accustomed to choosing the best player available in the latter part of the first round and the second round.

Buchanan said another draft-related downside of the Blazers’ success is that not as many big-name players are now willing to participate in individual workout sessions for the team.

However, months devoted to scouting, video sessions and information gathering have allowed Portland to stay on pace with other franchises that possess lottery picks in this year’s draft.

And while the fate of general manager Kevin Pritchard and front office-related rumors continue to swirl, Buchanan said it has been business as usual for the Blazers.

A core group composed of Pritchard, Buchanan and Michael Born, Portland director of NBA scouting, have been together for six years. Roles are clearly defined; positions are understood. And while Buchanan and Born follow Pritchard’s lead, the trio equally rely on each other — to the point that non-verbal communication is often employed, while inherent feelings about a prospect are often shared.

“We could sit through that workout (Tuesday) and have a two-minute conversation,” Buchanan said. “I know where Kevin stands exactly on all of those guys, and vice versa for the rest of us. We think alike. We value the same things, basketball-wise. We have a strong belief on what wins basketball games.”

Louisiana-Lafayette’s Tyren Johnson, Notre Dame’s Tory Jackson, Syracuse’s Andy Rautins and Rider’s Ryan Thompson also worked out for the Blazers. … Pritchard said Blazers center Joel Przybilla must make a decision by June 30 whether he will rejoin the team for the 2010-11 season. Przybilla holds a player option worth $7.4 million next year. … Pritchard said Portland has begun the initial process of filling the team’s vacant vice president of basketball operations position. The spot was formerly held by Tom Penn, who was fired in March. Pritchard said the decision is his to make, but added that he will take his time in going through the process. While Born and Buchanan are still candidates, Joe Cronin, Blazers scout/basketball operations information manager, has continued to take on a larger role in handling the team’s salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement-related issues. … The Blazers will meet today with center Greg Oden to formulate a summer rehabilitation plan for the often-injured big man. Pritchard said Oden is committed to remaining in Portland as much as possible this summer, and added that his surgically repaired left knee is supposed to be in excellent shape. … Pritchard said Brandon Roy, who is recovering from right knee surgery, has made significant progress in his rehab, and is primarily focused on improving his conditioning. … Portland assistant coach Monty Williams said he is solely focused on the Blazers, and is taking recent talk about a potential head-coaching position in stride. Williams was a candidate for jobs with Philadelphia and New Orleans. The 76ers position went to Doug Collins, while Boston assistant coach Tom Thibodeau is reportedly a favorite for the Hornets job. “I’m really flattered that I get the opportunity to talk about being a head coach,” Williams said. “But as of now, there’s really nothing to talk about.”

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