It’s not that I didn’t expect DeJuan Blair to throw his name into the ’09 Draft. I just didn’t expect him to leave it there so soon, immediately hiring an agent and not even allowing himself the option to go back to school. In the early stages of the early-declaration period, Blair’s move has been the boldest so far.
It’s not an issue of whether or not he can play. The sophomore All-American PF put up 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds a night while leading Pitt to the Elite Eight, turning in two 20-board efforts this season and eight games where he had at least 20 points and 15 boards. At the very least, I see Blair making an impact in the League in the Brandon Bass/Leon Powe fashion, an energy rebounder off the bench who’s invariably more valuable to a contender than to a Lottery team.
But listed at 6-6 or 6-7, with a game that’s strictly low-post and under the glass, Blair is a lock to get drafted lower than his talent warrants. It also doesn’t help that he’s got a history of knee surgeries, and he’s struggled to keep his weight under control in the past. Eliminating the possibility of pulling his name out of the draft before teams even get to take his true measurements and test out his knees could come back to bite Blair in the end.
Then again, I can see why going all-in is the smart play. First, there’s the risk of getting injured again if Blair goes back to college. And it’s not like he’s going to grow any taller if he stays at Pitt. If Blair measures out to be 6-6 or even 6-5, another All-American campaign and constant double-doubles won’t make him any more attractive to NBA scouts. By coming out now, Blair at least has youth and potential on his side (he turns 20 this month), and the most recent memories of him are of a relentless warrior who led a team that was ranked No. 1 in the country at one time.
Every team in the League — if they don’t already have one — can use somebody like Blair on their roster, and the emergence of guys like Paul Millsap, Jason Maxiell and David Lee only makes them more aware of it. Ideally he’d land on a playoff team with a good coach who knows how to use him, and where he won’t be considered a disappointment if he doesn’t put up big numbers right away, but there’s a good chance that won’t happen. Blair is a classic late-first round type, and this draft is funny in that a lot of Lottery squads have those picks due to trades (Sacramento at #24, Oklahoma City at #25, Memphis at #27, Minnesota at #28).
Most mock drafts have Blair going somewhere in the late-teens or early-20s. In his press conference yesterday, Blair called those mock draft listings, “almost a (first-round) guarantee to me.”
I’d agree. Unless something real problematic pops up during pre-draft physicals and measurements, I don’t see Blair going any lower than 30th, but no higher than 20th.