With the 23rd pick in the LB writers mock draft, the Trail Blazers select Kevon Looney, of the University of California - Los Angeles. Somehow, a player who was projected in Chad Ford's Top 5 and DX's Top 10 for the vast majority of the season slid all the way to 23, where I couldn't pass him up for Portland.
The Blazers are at an interesting crossroads-- they've been a strong playoff team both of the last few seasons, but injuries turned them into a sacrificial lamb this year and their franchise cornerstone may be leaving for nothing when free agency opens. Draft strategy should always be to take the best player, but for a team in Portland's situation, which may need to enter rebuilding mode a lot sooner than they had previously hoped, swinging for the fences is really a necessity.
Looney's value comes from his potential to play as a face up 4, a player who has become more and more valuable as the league has migrated away from having two post-up players in most lineups. After struggling for the first part of the season, Looney shot 41% on 53 3-point attempts, portending possible future success. He's also an outstanding offensive rebounder (12.2 ORB%) with an underrated feel for the game on both offense and defense.
Delon Wright was strongly considered for this spot as well, but after seeing how far Looney had dropped (Thanks, Mike for pointing it out!), there was only one choice for the Blazers.
Next up is Shamus picking for the NBA runners up. The Cavs need a lot of help from the "anyone who's not LeBron" portion of their team, so let's see if Shamus can get them what they need.