Blazers select Nolan Smith and Jon Diebler in the 2011 NBA Draft

In a surprise move, the Portland Trail Blazers used their 21st pick of the 2011 NBA Draft in the first round to select guard Nolan Smith, a product out of Duke University. Considering how much love the Blazers organization had us going with Morehead State forward Kenneth Faried for weeks but pulled this one off without even mentioning interest in Smith.

This is what the Blazers had to say about Smith on their official website:

Being a Dukie has it’s perks. One, you’re playing for an NCAA title contending team year in and year out. Two, you’re coached by the best of the best in Coach K. And three, your game is visible all season long. All of these points contribute to scouting and how comfortable an NBA team would feel picking you come draft night.

Nolan Smith, a 6-2 guard out of Duke University, averaged 20.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in his senior season as a Blue Devil. Stepping in for and injured Kyrie Irving, Smith played a stellar season earning him first-team All-American accolades as well as the title of ACC Player of the year. His high-level playing was visible on the national stage. 

Nolan Smith during his four years at Duke

“Nolan, I’ve seen him a lot. I saw him last year against the Olympic team and he did a good job playing against those guys,” Head Coach Nate McMillan said. “Duke is on TV probably weekly, so I’ve seen him play a lot and had the opportunity to work with Coach K who is a big fan of his. But he had a good workout today.”

As a skilled combo-guard forced to play more of the point—which he did successfully—Smith’s strong ability to pass defenders and consistent mid-range game that make him stand out. 

“Nolan, we’ve seen him for so long, he is just a rock-solid, high-character guy. He’s proven at the college level, he’s improved every year, which we like,” Interim General Manager Chad Buchanan said. “He can score it, good defender. That was kind of his identity coming into college, was a defensive guard and he’s evolved into a pretty good offensive player as well.

During the second round, the Blazers selected Ohio State swingman Jon Diebler with the 51st pick. Not much is known about Diebler here in the Northwest, but from what the Blazers say, he is one of the best three point shooters in college in the Big Ten Conference and averaged 10.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 41.6 percent (374-for-900) from 3-point range in four seasons at Ohio State.

According to Diebler’s draft profile:

At 6’6, Diebler has good size for an NBA wing player. His skinny 200-pound frame and average wingspan, however, leave much to be desired from a physical perspective. He is just an average athlete, as well, lacking ideal quickness and explosiveness for his position.

While Diebler’s physical profile is less than impressive, he ranks as one of the most efficient players in college basketball over the last decade, ranking #1 in True Shooting Percentage and points per possession.

Hopefully Diebler's hot hand from three help Portland from beyond the arc

Diebler’s efficiency stems primarily from the role he plays and his acceptance of his function in Ohio State’s offense—for which his skill-level is perfectly tailored. Over 40% of his offensive possessions come in the form of spot-up jump shots, and Diebler converts an outrageous 50% of 7.2 three-point field goal attempts per 40 minutes pace adjusted. As one would expect, his mechanics are flawless, he elevates well, and he is nearly automatic in rhythm. Furthermore, he is just as effective shooting with or without a hand in his face, thanks to his solid size and quick release.”

Time will tell on how these guys can better our team. If Diebler can come in and shoot like Rudy Fernandez did his rookie year, this pick will seem worth it. I’ve yet to come to a conclusion on how I feel about both Smith and Diebler simply because I have not seen them play at all, if you consider SportsCenter highlights to count. Now, the Draft overall….just like any other, I have little to no idea about any of the players from the 5th pick onward. We all know about Jimmer and the mania that comes with it, we’ve all heard about Derrick Williams (people here in Pac-12 country) and Kemba Walker. For the Blazers to talk openly about how great this Kenneth Faried is from Morehead State during workouts and how dominate he is in the paint, to not pick him up and pass for another guard leaves me scratching my head. Then picking someone from Ohio State late in the second round who is not a big man, but of all things, just another shooter. Along with trading away Andre Miler for Raymond Felton from Denver and sending a disgruntled Rudy Fernandez to Dallas, the Blazers got younger like they wanted to but to put it plain and simple, it didn’t help nor hurt the team.

Overall grade: C

photos courtesy of and