After two big wins against the Nuggets and Rockets this week, the Blazers have now won five straight games and eight of their last nine, headed out of the 2017 NBA lottery and into the NBA playoffs. They currently have their own pick, also holding the rights to the first-round picks of both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Amidst March Madness and the NCAA tournament, Dan Marang has covered what may be available for the Blazers with those later two picks. Today we’ll look at what the Blazers can do with their own selection—their best pick. If Portland makes the playoffs, the best draft position they can have is the No. 15 spot. If the Blazers keep playing well, it could be as high as No. 19.
While ideal fits like Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, and Jayson Tatum will most certainly be gone, talent can still be found.
Miles Bridges - SF/PF, Michigan State
Age: 19 (Freshman)
Height: 6’6.3” (199 cm)
Weight: 226 lbs
It’d be a minor miracle if the Blazers could nab Miles Bridges at No. 15, as most mock drafts have him in the 8-14 range. There’s also the possibility he stays in school—he’s still yet to declare. However, if Miles does enter the draft, there is reason to believe he may fall. He has the skill set of a power forward, but the height of a shooting guard, making him a man without a position and an awkward fit for some teams.
Although Miles’ shooting stats his freshman season at Michigan State were solid, his game is predicated on strength and athleticism; he is short but built like a rock. Miles is a tip-in dunk threat on every rebound, running the floor hard and looking for lobs in transition. He has great hands and body control and attacks the rim aggressively.
Unfortunately, Miles does not have the handle or the passing ability tone would hope for from a player of his height, but he can attack the rim hard in a straight line drive. Bridges is a lefty and finishes well—if not acrobatically—with both hands. His lack of size did not give him any problems finishing around the rim against college athletes, but the size of the players he’ll meet in the NBA could be cause for concern.
Bridges plays with a lot of passion and heart. Sometimes his energy is misguided, but that’s not unlike most freshmen. He’s a true competitor, a tough-minded kid, and has a little bit of that “jerk” and cockiness in him that may help him as he makes the transition to the next level.
As the Blazers’ roster is currently constructed, the power forward position is controlled by a joint effort from Noah Vonleh, Al Farouq Aminu, and Ed Davis. In the case of no other big offseason moves, there are definitely minutes available for an incoming power forward. Bridges and Jusuf Nurkić could potentially form one of the tougher frontcourts in the NBA for years to come, as the youngster’s skill set would be a terrific complement to this roster.
If you’re not sold yet, watch this:
Justin Jackson - SF/PF, North Carolina
Age: 22 - Junior
Weight: 193 lbs
The value of Justin Jackson—not to be confused with Josh Jackson of Kansas, who will certainly have an NBA team’s hat on by this point in the draft already—will more than likely fluctuate over the upcoming weekend. He and the North Carolina Tar Heels will be participating in the NCAA Final Four, facing the Oregon Ducks. Jackson has been the team’s leading scorer and best player throughout the year.
Simply put, he’s a very complete and pure producer offensively. Jackson has a true scorer’s mentality and the skills to go with it. After being a suspect 3-point shooter in his first two seasons at UNC, Jackson worked on the mechanics of his outside shot and has turned his weakness into a weapon, hitting 38 percent from three this season.
His main strength, however, is inside the arc. Jackson has a very nice pull-up jumper, one of the most accurate and consistent floaters from a player 6’8” or taller that you’ll see, and the ability to finish well with both hands around the rim. He has a very soft touch around the basket and is a smart cutter when he's away from the ball, as well.
Because of his size, Jackson can get his shot off over most defenders, even when they are up in his space. He has a very high basketball IQ, and his turnovers per game—1.7—rank incredibly low for a player who controls the ball so often.
Physically, Jackson is not very strong and does not play any bigger than his skinny frame. At 22 years old, he’s not likely to fill out much more, either. Considering that Jackson is not a world class athlete, he could stuggle with the physicality and athleticism of the NBA game. Even without being an freak of an athlete or have much bulk to him, however, Jackson’s length and feel for the game should keep him from being a defensive liability.
He’s a quiet and reserved person, but at times you can see some fire in him as a competitor; he's a student of the game, a hard worker, and a winner.
Jackson is the best upperclass prospect in the draft and will almost surely be the first of them drafted. With his age, skill set, and experience, a team adding Jackson will be adding him with the intention of coming in and providing scoring power right away. The Blazer guards shoot the ball well, but Portland could use a knock-down shooter and scorer to come in at either forward spot while providing a different look.
It will be interesting to see which way the Blazers go with their three picks. The biggest deciding factor is availability and there is always a chance of a potential trade. But if Portland does keep their draft position, Jackson or Bridges around the No. 15 spot would be something Rip City faithful could easily get excited about.
Who do you think the Blazers should take with their first pick of the 2017 NBA draft? Let us know in the comments below.