The Portland Trail Blazers had the lottery push them back to the #7 pick. After the turmoil from last year, between the front office situation, multiple injuries to star players, trading away Norman Powell and CJ McCollum, among others, and skidding to the finish line. The hope was to maybe be in play for the top guys in the draft (Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero, or Chet Holmgren), but the ping pong balls did not fall our way. This draft is not limited to those three players, though. There still is plenty of NBA talent available behind those guys. Let’s look at who will possibly be available at that #7. I’ve included the players’ names, heights, colleges, ages, and classes with a breakdown of the players’ talents and a comparison to old NBA players and new NBA players.
6-6 SG/SF, Arizona, 20yo Sophmore
Bennedict Mathurin has the size and physicality that is ready for NBA action. He’s a proven sharpshooter, going 36.9% from three-point land last year while averaging 17.7 points per game. With those numbers, Mathurin gathered the PAC-12 player of the year award last year. As mentioned before, his athleticism is perhaps his biggest strength. He’s liable to make the extra cut to the basket on the chance he can create posters of other teams’ big men. His defense is above average given that athletism. One downside to Mathurin’s game is that he cannot create offense for other teammates, which is fine if you pair him with Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons.
Player Comparison Old and New: Latrell Sprewell or Jalen Green
6-8 PF, Iowa, 21 yo Sophmore
Keegan Murray put together a monster season last year with 23.5 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, 1.9 blocks per game, 1.5 assists per game, and 1.3 steals per game on 39.8% shooting from 3-point range. He led the nation in scoring by scoring off a combination of pick and pops and exploding past slower defenders with a nasty first step. While he’s a bigger player, Murray leans toward finesse when finishing in the paint. He’s also a great offensive rebounder, averaging three per game last season, and a decent shot blocker with two blocks per game last year. Some negative around Murray is that he doesn’t have a true position which could hinder his ability at both ends of the court. Murray also lacks lateral quickness, rather than relying on his length to create plays, meaning early foul trouble for the rookie player. The Blazers feature a lot of young frontcourt talent, so this may create a logjam.
Player Comparison Old and New: LaPhonso Ellis or Julius Randle
6-6 SF, Duke, 18 yo Freshman
AJ Griffin is another player with a long wingspan for his height (7’0”). Griffin is your prototype three-point assassin, shooting a deadly 45.4% from three last year. He also has the ability to put the ball on the floor as well, turning a spot-up opportunity into an easy shot at the rim if necessary. He’s also active off the ball, using his size to plow through screens to get to his spot. Based solely on his size and shooting ability, he can be an impact player on day one. While the shooting is great, his defense is subpar. He seems to get stuck on screens and is a tad slow laterally. Griffin would give the Blazers a perimeter presence. How the Blazers ran on defensive boards could amplify Griffin’s impact.
Player Comparison Old and New: Ryan Anderson or Max Strus
6-5 SG, Wisconsin, 20yo Sophmore
Johnny Davis is one of the more headstrong players in this draft. He wasn’t a huge recruit out of high school and used this to improve throughout his two-year college career. Davis knows how to use his athletic frame to create contact and get to the free-throw line. Along with this strength comes his desire to win. He was tabbed as Wisconsin’s go-to scoring option, using his quickness to drive and score. Davis will also guard the best player on the opposite team with no questions asked. His three-point shot is average at best. Because of this aggressiveness he possesses, Davis can find himself taking low-quality shots, shooting 43.1% from the field for his college career. Out of all of the options here, Davis would be my last pick. The last thing I would want is a ball-dominant scorer when the Blazers had issues with McCollum.
Player Comparison Old and New: Marcus Thornton or Jordan Clarkson
6-11 C, Memphis, 18yo Freshman
Jalen Duren will be the youngest player drafted since the NBA barred high schoolers from entering the draft, and for a good reason. Duren possesses an intriguing wingspan of 7’5”, which is well above average for his height (for reference, Kevin Durant has the same wingspan). With that wingspan comes Duren’s ability to catch lobs off of screen and rolls after swatting any opponent’s attempts at the rim. Duren is also strong for his age and defends post players well with that strength. He does not have another move either than dunking the ball or the occasional right-handed hook and lacks discipline on the defensive end by getting into foul trouble. Duren is also a subpar free throw shooter, shooting 62.5% from the free-throw line last year. The Blazers lack a rim runner and may even lack a center overall by possibly losing Nurk this offseason. In my opinion, this is their best option.
Player Comparison Old and New: Dwight Howard or Andre Drummond