While there was some question as to whether or not he would be picked at all, Pat Connaughton heard his name earlier than many expected at the 2015 NBA Draft. The Brooklyn Nets took Connaughton with the 11th pick of the second round and 41st overall. For a brief moment, it appeared the two Irish stars would both be headed to the Big Apple. Instead, it was announced shortly after the pick that Brooklyn would be trading Connaughton and Mason Plumlee to Portland for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Steve Blake.
Brooklyn will send Mason Plumlee and Pat Connaughton to the Blazers for Hollis-Jefferson and Blake, league sources tell Yahoo.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 26, 2015
After impressing at the NBA combine, Connaughton dispelled any doubts about his athleticism by posting the highest vertical leap of anyone in the draft class. The performance had to impress NBA GMs, and shot him up draft boards across the league. While he wasn't picked in the first round as ESPN's Fran Fraschilla was speculating, he was taken relatively early in the second round. Despite not heading to New York with his Irish teammate, the Blazers will be an interesting fit for the Irish Captain. The Blazers finished 4th in the Western Conference last season, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies in five games with Wesley Matthews out with injury. While the Blazers have been a perennial playoff team out west the last few years, their roster has a lot of question marks heading into the offseason. LaMarcus Aldridge has yet to announce his future plans, but many expect him to leave the team in free agency this summer. Shooting guard Wesley Matthews and center Robin Lopez will also be free agents, and both will seek significant salary increases. Small forward Aaron Afflalo also just opted out of his contract opening another roster spot, this one at Connaughton's position. Trading for Plumlee may be an attempt by Portland to replace Aldridge or Lopez inside, but until players actually sign contracts, everything is just speculation.
Connaughton will likely be a classic 3-and-D role player in the NBA, and there's no question he has the outside shot and athleticism to do both. With the roster likely to change significantly between now and the end of free agency, it will hard to tell what Connaughton's chances of sticking on the roster actually are (second round picks don't receive guaranteed contracts in the NBA). That said, Portland's current lineup of small forwards (Allen Crabbe, Alonzo Gee, and Dorell Wright) is pretty unimpressive, and Connaughton should have a great chance to make the team. While Irish hoops fans were undoubtedly excited to hear Pat's name called, the Baltimore Orioles have to be less than thrilled that their prized pitching prospect may end up in the NBA. Connaughton's selection meant Notre Dame had two players drafted in the same year for the first time since 1992. For more reaction from Pat's new team, check out Blazers Edge.