Well, that does it. On August 29th, the Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated by the #1 seed Los Angeles Lakers. Despite missing Zach Collins and Damian Lillard for a game (and an additional 39 minutes), having the backcourt duo of Dame and CJ face injuries, and being utterly exhausted, the Blazers pushed the series to 5 games. In the end, they were simply outmatched, and guarding Anthony Davis proved too difficult a task for the slow Blazers’ centers.
A bright spot for the Blazers, however, was landing the 16th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Set to take place on November 18, there are a slew of players I’d love to have on the Trail Blazers. I’ll address the Blazers’ needs, look at a couple of my favorite prospects, grade the pick, give them and NBA comparison, and state whether the draft pick will be a reach or not.
Let’s get started.
The Blazers’ Needs to Look Out For in the Draft
The Blazers need depth at the point guard, small forward, and possibly center positions.
Spacing out the floor and reducing pressure on Lillard is a big need for the Blazers, and so is perimeter defense. Drafting a 3 and D small forward could do wonders for this team, and such a player could be excellent when paired next to or behind Trevor Ariza and Gary Trent Jr. It would be a welcome sight to not be burned on the perimeter.
At the point guard, the Blazers only have one true option: Damian Lillard. He’s a sensational scorer, a top 7-9 player in this league, and arguably just had one of the greatest individual seasons by an NBA point guard. However, having only one true point guard really hurts the ball movement whenever Dame sits. It could be part of the reason why the Blazers fell from the 3rd best to a bottom 5 offense with Lillard off the court. Along with this, having another playmaker could help the team not fall apart offensively whenever Dame or CJ move around off ball.
The center spot isn’t necessarily a worry for the Blazers, as they have Nurkic, Whiteside, and Collins, but if they let Whiteside walk, drafting an agile center may help against quicker bigs such as Anthony Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
There are an array of young players who could fit these positional needs in the NBA Draft.
The Draft Prospects
Isaac Okoro: SG/SF, Freshman, Auburn. 6’6, 225 lbs.
12.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.0 apg on 51/29/67 splits.
Isaac Okoro is wing who could mold perfectly into a 3 and D player from whichever team drafts him. He has nice athleticism, is physical, has good size, finishes well, and plays excellent defense. His jumper is inconsistent, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with coaching. He’s not shy about shooting the 3 either, as he averaged 2.5 attempts per game from the arc. The one problem for the Blazers? He’s a projected late lottery pick, and the Blazers are stuck at 16th.
NBA Comparison: Jimmy Butler
Likelihood: Big Reach
Aaron Nesmith: SG/SF, Sophomore, Vanderbilt. 6’6, 213 lbs.
23.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 0.9 apg on 51/52/83 splits.
Aaron Nesmith might be the best 3 and D prospect in this draft. He has elite shooting from all spots on the floor, and might be one of the lights out shooters in this draft. He has good size as well, and has all the tools to develop into a strong defender. The most eye popping stat is his white-hot 52.2% 3 point shooting mark on 8.2 attempts per game. His spacing next to Dame would be invaluable. While he’s a projected late lottery pick, there are chances that he could slide to within the Blazers’ grasp, as he suffered a season ending foot injury and doesn’t have the best handle. If he does, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blazers choose him.
Likelihood: Reach, but not hopeless.
Jalen Smith: PF/C, Sophomore, Maryland. 6’10, 225lbs.
15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 0.8 apg on 54/37/75 splits.
Jalen Smith could provide great depth for the Blazers in the front-court, especially in the event that Hassan Whiteside walks. He hits the 3 ball well, is a strong rebounder, good shot blocker, and has shown good scoring ability during his tenure at Maryland. He passes the eye-test, and looks like one of the best players when he is on the floor. He might need to put on some muscle, but he’s a great prospect outside of his lack of strength.
Precious Achiuwa: PF/C, Freshman, Memphis. 6’9, 225lbs.
15.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.0 apg on 49/33/60 splits.
Precious’ efficiency and jumper are concerns, but he has shown the ability to hit the 3. Similarly to Jalen Smith, he’d be a good option if Whiteside were to walk. He’s a good rebounder and defender despite being somewhat undersized. He does have an enormous 7’2 wingspan, and he has a good frame to add some weight onto. He’s ridiculously athletic, and quite possibly the most athletic prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft. He is a bit raw, but a great prospect nonetheless.
Theo Maledon: PG, 19, France. 6’5, 180 lbs.
7.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.1 apg on 44/35/82 splits.
Theo Maledon has seen limited playing time, but he’s looked great in the minutes he’s gotten. He has great size, but needs to put on some weight. He has a great first step, and good athleticism. He’s a great finisher at the rim, and has a wide array of moves to find angles. He’s a defensive pest on the ball, and his size could help him translate that into the NBA. His shooting from the arc is a question mark, but he’s hit a solid percent of them this year.
Grade: C+ or B-
Kira Lewis, Jr: PG, Sophomore, Alabama. 6’3, 165lbs.
18.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.2 apg on 46/37/80 splits.
Kira Lewis, Jr. is an extremely underrated prospect in this draft. While he has average size for a point guard, and needs to put on some weight, he still projects to be a very good player at the NBA level. He’s a crafty scorer, a good finisher, a good playmaker, a nice ball handler, an efficient shooter, and has nice bounce.
Most notably, however, is his blazing speed. He’s an absolute blur on the court, and has great change of pace, just like former Alabama guard, Collin Sexton. His downhill drives had tremendous gravity, and his slick passes to open teammates on these drives led to Alabama finishing 6th in 3 point shots made.
Finally, just like the Blazers’ own Damian Lillard, Kira Lewis is an iron man. He’s yet to miss a collegiate game despite his 37.6 minutes per game.
Likelihood: Reasonable, if not a safety pick.
There you have it, these are some of my personal favorite picks for the Blazers’ 16th overall slot. While not everyone here may turn into a star, these guys have a lot of upside, and project to make an instant impact on the court.