Tuesday marked the seven year anniversary for Neil Olshey’s hiring as general manager by the Portland Trail Blazers.Though he has been a key cog in the Blazers rebuilding and the success in the team’s recent playoff runs (the Blazers have 5 straight playoff appearances including the WCF this postseason), he has been on the receiving end of criticism and doubt at the hands of fans.
Olshey is the third longest tenured gm in Portland’s franchise history behind the Blazers original head honcho, Harry Glickman, who was gm for 11 years (1970-1981) including during the Blazers sole championship, and of course Trader Bob Whitsitt who helmed the team for 9 years (1994-2003).
Since he has been the general manager, Neil Olshey has drafted thirteen players. He has since traded nine of them, six on draft night. Six never played in a Portland jersey(Jerrett did but only in preseason and 3 years after he was drafted and traded).The Blazers didn’t have picks in 2014 or 2016. Later this month the Blazers will pick at number #25 in the 2019 NBA draft, if they don’t trade it. While we are waiting let’s take a look back at the selections Olsheys has made in the draft as the Blazers gm, starting with his latest and working our way back to his first.
1st Rnd, 25th Pick 2018
The kid out of IMG academy has a bright future. Perhaps the best guard behind Luka Doncic in last years draft class, the NBA has yet to see the best of him. They got a glimpse though in the Trail Blazers final game of the regular season in which he played all 48 minutes of the game and led the Blazers back from a 28 point deficit to victory over the Sacramento Kings. He finished with 37 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds. He shot 7-11 from three and 13-21 overall.
Simons can shoot, his release is butter. He can get to the rim with ease. He has the makings of a star player. That said he is still very young and raw. He needs to add muscle and experience. He got some court time this season, and will get more come the next. But, when you have it, you have it. Olshey appears to have struck gold here. Simons is special.
*The Trail Blazers bought into the second round of the 2018 NBA draft, and took Gary Trent Jr. at pick #37. He currently plays for Portland. The pick was bought from Sacramento for 2 future 2nd rnd draft picks(2019’s 40th pick via Minnesota and the 2021 pick from Miami)as well as cash considerations.
Caleb Swanigan PF
1st Rnd, 26th Pick, 2017
Swanigan had a feel good story. He overcame weight issues, homelessness, and the adversity of the death of his father to make it to the NBA. He had the reputation as a hard as nails worker and as an all around good guy.
Maybe he wasn’t everyone’s choice for the 26th pick, but he was Olsheys. It was hard finding someone who didn’t like the guy. Coming to Portland with Zach Collins and battling for time with Noah Vonleh, gave Swanigan little court time.
Swanigan only played 45 games with Portland over three seasons. He averaged 2.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 7.4 minutes a game. He had a career high 11 points, 10 rebounds this past season in a win against the Pacers.
He was traded at the 2019 deadline to the Sacramento Kings for Skal Labissiere. His numbers rose a little with the Kings for the last part of the season. Who knows we may yet see him become something in the NBA.
Harry Giles PF
1st Rnd, 20th Pick 2017
Giles was traded during the draft along with Justin Jackson for the 10th pick, big man Zach Collins out of Gonzaga. Giles, the 6’11 big man out of Duke was a top high school prospect, and was still on radars in college despite MCL and ACL injuries.
An Athletic big, Giles skillset on the cut and the pick and roll, along with his ability to run the court, score on the fastbreak and off offensive rebounds, helped him stand out among the scouts.
Giles sat out the 2017-18 season to recover and strengthen his body from his latest ACL injury. He played in 58 games during the 2018-19 season averaging 7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Justin Jackson SF
1st Rnd, 15th Pick, 2017
Jackson was included with Harry Giles in a draft night trade for Pick #10, Zach Collins. He played in 68 games in his rookie season, starting in 41. He averaged 6.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists.
In his second year, the 2018-19 season, he averaged 7.2 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists. He had a career high 28 points against the Warriors on 71% shooting from both the field and the three.
He was traded at the deadline to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal for Harrison Barnes. His points average rose again slightly to 8.2 points a game, showing that he is on an upward trajectory.
*Portland traded Harry Giles and Justin Jackson to Sacramento for Zach Collins
Blazers 2016 Picks:
The Blazers traded their 2016 1st rnd pick, #19 to the Denver Nuggets in 2015 as part of the deal to bring Arron Afflalo to Portland. The Nuggets drafted Malik Beasley.
The Blazers traded their 2016 2nd rnd pick, #48 to Cleveland along with their 2015 2nd rnd pick in 2013 for pick #31 in that years draft, Allen Crabbe. The Cavaliers traded it to Chicago as part of the deal for Luol Deng. The Bulls picked Paul Zipser.
*Portland bought the 47th pick from Orlando and took Jake Layman
Rondae Hollis – Jefferson
1st Rnd, 23rd Pick, 2015
Hollis- Jefferson was drafted by Blazers then traded mid second round along with Steve Blake (for the third time, poor guy) to the Brooklyn Nets for Mason Plumlee and pick #41 Pat Connaughton.
Rondae has played four seasons with the Brooklyn Nets. He has averaged 9.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2 assists. He has played 234 games and started in 147. His third season was his best. He averaged 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. He scored a career high 25 points that season against the Knicks. He had a career high 17 rebounds against Toronto.
This postseason he had a career playoff high 21 points in game 5 of the Nets series with Philadelphia. He is a restricted free agent this summer.
*The Cavaliers took Sir’Dominic Pointer with the 2015 2nd rnd pick, #53 they received from Portland in the Allen Crabbe Trade.
*The Blazers bought the 54th pick from Utah and took Dani Diez but never signed him. They still hold his rights.
The Trail Blazers had no picks in 2014. They traded their 2014 1sr rnd pick, #24 to the Hornets in 2011 B.O. (Before Olshey) in the trade that netted them Gerald Wallace. (Wallace was eventually traded to the Nets for the 2012 pick that became Damian Lillard). The 24th pick was future Blazer Shabazz Napier.
The Blazers 2014 2nd round pick, #56 was traded to Denver, also in 2011 as part of the deal that sent Andre Miller to Denver and Raymond Felton to Portland. Ugh.
Marko Todorovic PF\C
2nd Rnd, 45th Pick, 2013
The big man from Montenegro was drafted by the Trail Blazers, then had his draft rights traded 13 days later to the Houston Rockets as part of the trade that brought Thomas Robinson to Portland, that also involved two future seconds and the draft rights to Kostas Papanikolaou.
Todorovic’s rights remain with Houston. He has played basketball in Spain an Europe since. He was a Spanish League Champion in 2014 with Bilbao. He was named to the All Spanish team in 2015. He played for Khimki, a Russian team and has since returned to Spain to play with Joventut.
Grant Jerrett PF
2nd Rnd, 40th Pick, 2013
The Trail Blazers drafted the big man out of Arizona then traded his rights to the Oklahoma City Thunder later that night for cash considerations. He played only 5 games for Oklahoma City, including a debut where he scored a whopping 3 points. He averaged 1.4 points and 0.8 rebounds with the Thunder.
He was traded to the Jazz at the deadline the next season in a three team deal, between the Thunder, Jazz, and Pistons that netted the the Thunder Enes Kanter.
Jerrett played only three games with Utah averaging 3 points and 1.7 rebounds. He was waived before the start of the following season and was signed by Portland to a non guaranteed contract. He appeared in three preseason games in 2016 in which he averaged 4.6 points, 1.3 rebounds in 9 minutes. He scored 9 points in the opening preseason game against Utah.
He then spent time between D League (in 10 games with Canton he averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds), China, and Japan. He currently plays for the Bosnian team Igokea.
Jeff Withey C
2nd Rnd, 39th Pick 2013
Withey was drafted by the Blazers then traded 13 days later to the Pelicans in a three way deal that also involved Sacramento and netted Portland center Robin Lopez.
Jeff played two seasons with New Orleans averaging 3 points and 2.3 rebounds. He played 95 games, starting only 4 for the Pelicans. He scored a career high 17 points against the Suns while there.
He signed with Utah in 2015 as a free agent and had an 11 point 12 rebound game against the 76ers. He played 102 games overall for Utah, starting in 11. He averaged 3 points and 2.3 rebounds.
After two seasons with the Jazz he signed as a free agent with Dallas in 2017. He was waived two months into the season after playing in only 9 games and averaging 1.7 points and 1.1 rebounds.
He played briefly with the Turkish team Tofas and currently plays for the Greek team Lavrio.
CJ McCollum SG
1st Rnd, 10th Pick, 2013
McCollum is Portland’s current starting shooting guard and one half of one of the best backcourts in the NBA along with Damian Lillard. He averaged 21 points in his first summer league but only about 6 points a game his first two seasons in which he fought for minutes next to Will Barton and played behind Wes Matthews and briefly Arron Afflalo.
McCollum jumped to 20 points and 4 assists a game in his third season upon gaining the starting spot winning him the 2016 NBA Most Improved Player award. He hasn’t averaged less than 21 points a game in a season since.
He joined the 50 point club this past season against the Bulls, an achievement shared by few blazers and NBA players to boot. He has also had several 40+ and 30+ games as well. CJ is is an offensive phenomenon. He can shoot the three like no ones business, attack the basket at will, or stop short on the elbow for beautiful fall away jumpers.
He was a big part of Portland’s run to the Western Conference Finals this past postseason, despite a late season injury to his knee. He helped Portland put away Denver in game seven of that series, putting the Blazers on his shoulders and willing them to a win. He scored 41 earlier in the series for a playoff career high.
He looks to be part of Portland’s future and perhaps a key piece in the hunt for the Blazers second Trophy.
Tyshawn Taylor PG
2nd Rnd, 41st Pick, 2012
Taylor was traded by the Trail Blazers shortly after being drafted to the Brooklyn Nets for cash considerations. He played for Brooklyn for one and a half seasons. He scored a career high 12 points playing in place of an injured Deron Williams, and us probably best known for the incident in which coach Jason Kidd asked Taylor to bump into him after running out of timeouts to make reason for a break in the game.
Taylor was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans for cash considerations and the draft rights to Edin Bavcic. He was waived before he had the chance to play for them.
He has more recently played for the DLeague (Maine Redclaws), and international teams in Puerto Rico, Russia, Venezuela, Israel, Turkey, and most recently Italy.
Will Barton SG
2nd Rnd, 40th Pick, 2012
Will “The Thrill” Barton played for the Trailblazers for two and a half seasons. Though he only averaged 6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while in Portland, he often showed glimpses of talent and ability, but remained inconsistent in his play.
Barton, a wiry 6’6 guard was pure energy off the Portland bench. He could attack the basket with an uncanny speed. He outrebounded taller guys on the offensive glass for putbacks. He could shoot the three and had the quickest of releases.
The Peoples Champ had a 22 point, 13 rebound, 6 assist game against the Mavericks his rookie season. He had a 23 and 10 game the following season. But, those type of high level games from Barton were far and few between. How much of that was due to his own deficiencies?
Some of it for sure was a lack of of opportunity and sporadic minutes on the court. Barton played behind Wes Matthews and fought for playing time against CJ McCollum. We know how that worked out.
Will was traded at the 2015 deadline to the Denver Nuggets along with Thomas Robinson and Victor Claver for Arron Afflalo. He has played in Denver the past four and a half seasons and his numbers rose every season, till this last one when they fell from 16 points and 4 rebounds to about 12 and 3 a game. This seemingly once again due both to inconsistency and ill opportunity, having been pushed behind younger up and coming players in the lineup.
Those variances in his play showed up this postseason. In the first round, for four of the seven games he scored 4 points or under. He had three double digit games scoring 17 in game 5. He played well against the Blazers, meeting his former team for the first time in the playoffs since he left. He scored 22 points in game 4 and followed that with two double digit scores to help the Nuggets win games 5 and 6.
He likely remains of the few on this list who Olshey traded and has lived to regret it. Blazer fans continue to discuss the possibility of a future return. Many would welcome it.
Meyers Leonard C
1st Rnd, 11th Pick, 2012
The struggles of Meyers Leonard have caused perhaps more exasperation than any recent player on the team. He has played for the Trail Blazers for seven seasons and his play has been more than inconsistent. His time on the court has been irregular, but it seems more based on his unspirited backbone and the teams lack of confidence in him.
Leonard has averaged 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds during his time in Portland. He had several setbacks in injuries and deep rosters that saw him become the odd man out. He remains though one of, if not the best shooting big men in the NBA. He was a 50/40/90 shooter (50% FG, 40% 3pt, 90% FT) in his third season. He is at 48/38/82 for his career.
He played well for Portland during the postseason in the absence of Jusuf Nurkic. Though he didn’t get much play time in the first two series, Meyers had a 30 point, 12 rebound game in the Blazers final playoff game against the Warriors.
His season high was 25 points against the Thunder in his third season. An effort that likely played a part in Neil Olshey’s decision to resign him to a 4 year deal, he has mostly lived to regret. Though Meyers Leonard has shown growth in the last season, and has shown glimpses of the player Portland has hoped he would become. He remains a decent backup and could perhaps be more if he were used right.
1st Rnd, 6th Pick, 2012
By far Olsheys best pick to date, and Portland’s current starting point guard and star player. Lillard has become a top 10 player in the NBA, not to mention the second best point guard. His game has grown every season. Whether it is attacking the paint or shooting threes from the logo, Damian is a miracle worker on offense.
He is the only player to win two playoff series on buzzer beaters. He has quickly set record after record and has become one of the best players in Trail Blazers history. He played in and started all 82 games for the first three seasons of his career. He averaged 19 points a game his first season, was named rookie of the year, and made the All Rookie 1st team. He went for 23 points and 11 assists in his rookie debut. The only other players to score 20 and 10 in their debut….Oscar Robertson and Allen Iverson.
Lillard is a 4 time All Star and a key piece to Portland’s future. He is one half of one of the best backcourts in the NBA. It is only a matter of time before he helps Portland to a championship and takes his place as the best Blazer ever. Oakland’s native son has been permanently adopted by Portland. He is a Trailblazer for life.
So how has Olshey done?
Sure there are several draftees who didn’t pan out, but Neil has a good batting average. He drafted Lillard and McCollum. He perhaps lost out in trading Barton, but he turned Jeff Withey into Robin Lopez and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson into Jusuf Nurkic via Mason Plumlee. He bought into the 2016 draft and got Jake Layman. He got Zach Collins from Giles and Jackson. He drafted perhaps a future star in Anfernee Simons.
It appears Olshey has done a pretty good job when it comes to the draft. Next time we will look at his trades to see who he has brought in and sent out. Maybe the criticism he gets is aimed more there.