As the memory of a late night with sparkling cider and grocery store champagne fades with the year that preceded it, Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated gives us something new to be bubbly about. It is a time for looking forward. Where 2017 ended on an unkind note for the Portland Trail Blazers, 2018 brings the next NBA Draft and the team’s next big chance to toast their future. We know it’s early for a mock—so do you—but let us start this year by freely wallowing in Woo’s anticipation of what could be.
If the NBA season ended today and the Trail Blazers possessed pick No. 19 in the 2018 NBA Draft, Woo has them selecting Miami Hurricanes shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV.
Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 12
Although Miami is a deep, guard-heavy team with high hopes for the postseason, Walker’s struggles to make a consistent impact are certainly concerning in the short-term. He’s only managed double figures in four games and been unable to secure consistently heavy minutes. It’s difficult to see a massive breakout on the horizon in ACC competition. That said, there’s still plenty to like about his tools, and if Walker strings together some strong performances late in the season, it could be all he needs to solidify himself. As it stands, he might need to come back to school. If he goes, a team will roll the dice anyway.
Walker has had an up-and-down season but the potential is there. His paltry per-game statistics (8.5 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists) are as much a reflection of his company as his inconsistency—neither uncommon grounds for disappointing production from a freshman. His outlook suggested by Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress as he exited high school was similar.
Shooting guard with a world of talent at his disposal. Still figuring out how to put everything together on a consistent basis. Really struggled at times in the three days we watched him in Colorado Springs. Still dropped some glimpses to remind you just how talented he is. Will need to find a higher intensity level to allow him to utilize his tools more consistently on both ends of the floor, especially when the game doesn't revolve around him.
Walker could be a hit in the NBA if he captures lightning in a bottle; he could be a serviceable player if he merely finds his footing, but right now it’s far too early to project much beyond that. No one is in the business of making promises for teenage athletes in January. Still, it’s interesting to think ahead and not dwell on the past. Maybe Walker will wear red and black one day, so why not check in on him?
Watch Walker drop 26 points on Boston University in his first career start:
What do you think, Blazer fans? You can read the rest of Woo’s article, here, and see where other prospects would land in this exercise.