The Trailblazers would have been interesting for Nichols. On one hand, it was a team with a lot of young talent, a situation that may have made it difficult for him to get the opportunities he would need to grow. It’s also a team with a very bright future. On the other hand, the Portland market is probably more suited to a player with Nichols character, a player who is somewhat shy and shuns the spotlight.
Nichols fortunes took a turn last night however, as the Trailblazers traded him to the New York Knicks for the Knicks’ 2008 2nd round pick. There will be more opportunities for Nichols in New York (I would think), and the Knicks are much closer to family, friends and SU fans. On the other hand, New York isn’t the kindest market to players who have low key personalities, so we’ll see.
I’ve always thought that Nichols has tremendous upside in the NBA. He has the right NBA style body (tall, athletic, quick) and a very good shooting touch. He needs to continue to improve his game as he did at Syracuse, but his NBA career is pretty much going to be his to define. I could see him eventually being a star player, or a guy with barely a taste of NBA action.
From a historical perspective getting out of Portland may have been a good thing for Nichols. Two former Orangemen have been drafted by the Trailblazers, and both had very short careers. Bill Smith was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1971 NBA draft (the 42nd pick overall), and Dave Johnson in the 1st round of the 1992 draft (the 26th pick overall). Smith would play 30 games in the NBA, and Johnson 59 (by the way, how mundane is it that the previous two Orangemen drafted by Portland had names so common as Bill Smith and Dave Johnson. If Mike Jones had stayed at Syracuse he could have been the trifecta in 2010).
The New York Knicks haven’t been much kinder to former Orangemen. Howard Triche and Gary Clark were both drafted by the Knicks but failed to play in the NBA. John Wallace was a 1st round pick in 1996 (18th pick overall); he’d have a seven year career in the NBA, but no where near the success a 1st round pick should have.
Though there was some hope that Darryl Watkins would get drafted, it was not a surprise he was not. He’s definitely a project in the NBA, and I think not getting drafted will benefit him. Now Watkins and his agent can pick the right opportunity for him as a rookie free agent. He may need to spend some time in Europe or the NBDL, but I could see 'Mookie' making the NBA someday as a serviceable backup player.