The Trail Blazers’ superstar chatted with Hutchison after the game, all 210 pounds of him. Hutchison was no longer the gangly sophomore Lillard met two summers prior. An NBA general manager in attendance told Lillard he viewed the Broncos’ centerpiece as a solid second-round draft prospect. Lillard reported back to Boise State associate head coach Phil Beckner, texting a shrug emoji. “And he’s like, ‘Well, Phil, that’s what they said about me,’” Beckner told The Front Office. As if Beckner could forget. He first taught Lillard the pick-and-roll intricacies at Weber State he’s now mastered in Portland. The former Wildcats assistant coach ripped an eight-minute DVD during Lillard’s freshman year, showcasing Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Deron Williams each running 10 high ball-screen actions. “That was the beginning of everything,” Lillard told SI in 2012. “I wanted to do what those guys were doing.” Nearly a decade later, Beckner has helped mold his next bonafide NBA draft sleeper in Hutchison.
“It doesn’t taking pulling teeth for me to pick something up and implement it in the game,” Hutchison explained, rather nonchalantly. All of this development rounds out a player tailor-made for the modern NBA. He has the length and physicality to guard multiple positions and, knocking down 34.8% of his threes this season, is proving to be reliable from distance. He’s a dynamic cutter, a trait he adapted back when foes could completely ignore him on the perimeter. “I had to find a way to get the defense to play me honest,” Hutchison said. He’ll likely find a familiar situation at the next level. “Guys are being paid hundreds of millions of dollars to have the ball in their hands. So I want to be able to show how I can be effective without the ball.”
They famously selected Jordan Adams one spot ahead of Rodney Hood in 2014 — after vigorous debate — and then fretted over Adams’ lack of playing time. They purchased the rights to the 35th pick in that draft, and used it on Jarnell Stokes. He’s gone from the NBA, too. They thought hard about selecting Nikola Jokic, sources say, but felt No. 35 was too high. Denver nabbed Jokic six picks later. They tried to trade up for T.J. Warren, but found no takers, sources say. Selecting Hasheem Thabeet No. 2 in 2009 has receded from memory, but it is the kind of what-if that ruins a franchise.
Chris Forsberg: Stan Van Gundy on Jayson Tatum: “I’m not surprised. I thought he was the best prospect in the draft. He’s got all the tools.” But even he didn’t foresee this 3-point outburst: “Anybody who says they’re not surprised by his 3-point shooting … is lying.”
“It’s conceivable we could win 40 games and have the fifth pick, which I’d take,” Cuban said. “We’re balanced, which means the bad teams are winning more games, which means we can play better and get better and get a good pick.” Cuban understands the way for bad teams to improve is through free agency and the draft. “Eyes on the prize, eyes on the prize,” Cuban said. “You see Dennis making strides every day. People forget Yogi is effectively a rookie. There’s a lot guys that are still learning to play.