The Portland Trailblazers just acquired Jerami Grant from the Pistons and managed to retain the 7th overall pick. They still have roster holes, but they can patch them with the 7th, 46th, and 57th pick. The organization wants to compete immediately with Damian Lillard near the end of his prime, so they will target win-now players. Portland may not even use their first round pick, as they could still shop it for a veteran.
Portland Trail Blazers Draft Picks
- 1 (7th)
- 2 (46th)
- 2 (57th)
Portland Trail Blazers Draft Needs
The Blazers have a number of key free agents that need to be brought back. Jusuf Nurkic, Joe Ingles, and Ben McLemore are unrestricted free agents. Their only center on the roster currently is Drew Eubanks, and he is a backup at best. Nurkic (15 PPG, 11.1 RPG) is a legitimate two-way center who can aid them in their championship pursuit. Joe Ingles will provide shooting and secondary playmaking for the Blazers, while McLemore gives them a scoring burst off the bench. If the Blazers desire to contend, all three would aid them considerably.
Anfernee Simons, CJ Elleby, Elijah Hughes, and Keljin Blevins are restricted free agents. After a breakout season, the Blazers must (and will) sign Simons as Lillard’s backcourt running mate. Simons averaged 17.3 PPG and 3.9 APG on a 44/40/88 shooting split. Portland can let the other three walk, as they are not projected to be a factor in their rotation.
The Blazers backcourt is rock-solid with Lillard and Simons. When healthy, Lillard is a top 12 player who can drop 40 on any given night. His tremendous range provides elite spacing for his teammates. Simons also has extended range; he can both pull up or act as a spot up shooter. Because many teams are constantly switching, it’s imperative to have multiple ball handlers who can excel in isolation. Their backcourt scoring won’t be a problem in the slightest. Both players are bad defenders, but the offense will be fluid with them.
Portland also has a pair of smaller wings in Josh Hart and Nassir Little. Hart showed promise running the pick and roll in spurts, and he’s a solid rebounder and playmaker. He can also shoot three-pointers, so the spacing will be excellent. Little, on the other hand, has the potential to be a defensive stopper. He can neutralize opposing wings and help on the glass.
The frontcourt is the biggest weakness, but Grant significantly boosts their two-way production at forward. He is also 6’8″, so Portland now has a bigger forward to throw at opponents. Bringing back Nurkic would also radically improve the frontcourt. It wouldn’t hurt to acquire another center also, as Eubanks may not be able to hold up in the playoffs. Rim protection has to be the focus because opponents will be able to drive past Lillard and Simons with ease. If the interior defense is not addressed, then Portland will allow 120 PPG every night.
Portland Trail Blazers Draft Targets
- Keegan Murray
Portland likely takes a forward with the 7th pick, and there are two options that fit well. Keegan Murray is 6’8” with a 6’11” wingspan, and he can do a little of everything on the court. He’s not a great shot creator, but he doesn’t have to be with Lillard and Simons. Murray can be a decent defender for them while proving post offense and spot up shooting. However, I don’t think he falls to them at 7.
- Jeremy Sochan
The other option at 7 is Jeremy Sochan. He hasn’t been linked to the Blazers, but he is exactly what Portland needs. Sochan is 6’9” and has a 7’0” wingspan. His defensive skills and IQ are excellent, so he can immediately contribute as an on-ball defender. The offense is a work in progress, but Portland has plenty of that already.
- Christian Koloko
Christian Koloko is another 7’1” defensive prospect who can protect the rim. His size will be a boon for the Portland bench. With Sochan/Murray at 7 and Koloko at 46, Portland would significantly boost the interior defense.
- Trevion Williams
If Koloko doesn’t fall to 46, Portland could select Trevion Williams. He’s excellent in the low post on both ends of the court and contributes on the boards. He’s shown some playmaking flashes, and Williams is ready for solid NBA minutes immediately.
- Tyler Burton
Tyler Burton is an option at 57 because of his solid floor and productivity. He’s a good rebounder who can hold up on defense. The 6’7” forward won’t be a hidden gem, but he will provide decent value off the bench.
Recent Portland Trail Blazers Draft Picks & Tendencies
Their last three first round picks have been Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, and Isaiah Stewart. They are not afraid to go after young guys who need some time to develop. However, I expect them to shake up this strategy with Lillard almost out of his prime. They may even trade the 7th pick for a win-now veteran, as they are not seeking projects with a bright future. Look for Portland to select a prospect with a high floor.