Big names missing as Blazers begin pre-draft workouts

TUALATIN -- The Trail Blazers' offseason evaluations started a little earlier than normal Monday at the practice facility in Tualatin, where the team worked out six borderline prospects in preparation for next month's NBA draft.

The names of the draft hopefuls -- Cedric Jackson, Wes Matthews, Garrett Temple A.D. Vassallo, DeMarre Carroll and Joe Krabbenhoft -- hardly resonate with the casual fan.

Chad Buchanan, the Blazers' director of college scouting, worked out Missouri's DeMarre Carroll, facing the camera, and five other potential NBA draft picks or free agents Monday.

In fact, the list of people absent from the first workout is perhaps more noteworthy, as general manager Kevin Pritchard, coach Nate McMillan and assistant general manager Tom Penn were on vacation.

But even so, Monday was notable because it served as the official launching point for the Blazers' offseason. They plan to evaluate five more prospects Tuesday morning, including Gonzaga guard Jeremy Pargo, and hold the bulk of their workouts next month during the weeks leading up to the June 25 draft.

For the first time in six years, the Blazers do not own a lottery pick. But the Blazers do have an attractive first-round selection -- No. 24 overall -- and four second-round picks to stockpile talent or use as bargaining chips in trades.

"Our approach has never changed," said Chad Buchanan, the Blazers' director of college scouting. "We identify the guy we want to get, and we're going to go get him. Whether he's the second, third, fourth pick in the draft or the 40th pick in the draft. That's how we've always been; (we) identify who we want and do whatever it takes to go get him."

The 2009 draft is widely regarded as shallow. Combine that with the Blazers' upward trajectory and roster needs, and it would seem the franchise is more inclined to trade some or all of its picks for established veterans.

But Buchanan said if the team can acquire one of its prime targets, it will not hesitate to add another talented young player. After all, the Blazers have rebuilt their roster through the draft and have had remarkable success with draft picks at or around No. 24 in recent seasons.

In 2007, they traded with Phoenix for the draft rights to the 24th pick, Rudy Fernandez, who became an integral part of the playoff run this season, registering the most three-pointers by a rookie in NBA history and earning second-team NBA all-rookie team honors.

Last offseason, the Blazers traded for the Houston Rockets' No. 25 pick, Nicolas Batum, who developed into a surprise starter during his rookie season. And in 2006, the Blazers traded to obtain the draft rights for No. 27 pick Sergio Rodriguez, the team's backup point guard.

"We've had some luck with Sergio and Nicolas and Rudy in that range, but that was also reflective of the caliber of the draft those years that we could get a caliber of player down there," Buchanan said. "I don't know if we're going to get a starter at pick 24 this year. But you never know. Some guy may slide that you really like that can step in and help you."

The Blazers got an earlier-than-usual peek at second-round talent on Monday thanks to changes in the NBA's offseason structure. In past years, predraft workouts with NBA teams did not begin until early June, after the completion of the predraft camp. But the predraft camp has become more and more insignificant in recent seasons as agents have persuaded high-profile clients to skip five-on-five competition and merely undergo general athletic and medical testing.

So the NBA revamped the camp, moved it from Orlando to Chicago and permitted teams to work out players beforehand. The camp will take place over the final five days of May and will feature a series of individual skill tests, agility drills, running, shooting and ball handling drills. Teams also will have the opportunity to privately interview a handful of players.

In the midst of evaluations and interviews, the Blazers also will test the pulse of the trade market and try to learn which players might be available this offseason.

But through it all, the Blazers will continue to bring draft prospects to Portland. Buchanan said the Blazers will evaluate roughly the same number of prospects they did last year, between 55 and 60, in search of the next Batum or Fernandez.

"I think most draft experts and most other teams will tell you (this draft) is a little down from previous years," Buchanan said. "We agree with that to a certain extent, but we do think we can get some players in the range where we're picking."

Notes: Jackson is a 6-foot-3 guard from Cleveland State; Matthews is a 6-5 guard from Marquette; Temple is a 6-6 guard from LSU; Vassallo is a 6-6 guard from Virginia Tech; Carroll is a 6-8 forward from Missouri; and Krabbenhoft is a 6-7 forward from Wisconsin. ... Buchanan said the prospects were possible second-round picks or Summer League hopefuls. ... The Blazers will not workout first-round targets until June.

Blazers prospects

Monday: DeMarre Carroll, 6-8, forward, Missouri; Cedric Jackson, 6-3, guard, Cleveland State; Joe Krabbenhoft, 6-7, forward, Wisconsin; Wes Matthews, 6-5, guard, Marquette; Garrett Temple, 6-6, guard, LSU; A.D. Vassallo, 6-6, guard, Virginia Tech.

Tuesday: Jeff Adrien, 6-7, forward, Connecticut; Josh Carter, 6-7, guard, Texas A&M; Alonzo Gee, 6-6, guard, Alabama; Chris Johnson, 6-11, forward, LSU; Jeremy Pargo, 6-2, guard, Gonzaga.

Joe Freeman: 503-294-5183;
To read his Behind the Beat blog, go to behindblazersbeat