The NBA Draft has always held special importance for the Portland Trail Blazers. As a team that has trouble luring marquee free agents to the Pacific Northwest, success in the draft is crucial to competing on the court. Franchise icons like Bill Walton, Clyde Drexler and Damian Lillard have all been acquired through the league’s annual event. Today we take a look a few prospects for the 2018 draft class that could be on the Blazers’ radar.
Obviously a lot can (and probably will) change between now and June 21st. For that reason, the players previewed weren’t chosen based on Portland’s current needs, but rather where they are currently projected in the draft itself. Based on the current standings, the Blazers will likely pick somewhere between 13th and 20th. Here’s who nbadraft.net has at those spots.
13. Miles Bridges—SF/PF, 6-7 230, Michigan State (So.)
Bridges is a physical specimen. The Flint, MI native would have probably been a first round pick in the 2017 draft had he entered. However, he opted to return to East Lansing for another year under the tutelage of Tom Izzo. His numbers are about identical from last season, with a little over a month remaining in the regular season. He’s averaging 17.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and three assists per game, and is shooting 49% from the field and 36% from three-point land (down from 39% last season).
The Blazers front office likely got an up close look at the explosive wing when the Spartans participated in the PK80 tournament in Portland back in late November. Michigan State ended up winning the Victory Bracket in blowout fashion over defending champion North Carolina.
Bridges’ best asset is his elite athleticism, on full display in the following highlight package from his freshman season:
14. Robert Williams—PF/C, 6-9, 240, Texas A&M (So.)
The bruising Williams averages just shy of a double-double at 10.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. Like Bridges, he could have been a first-rounder in last year’s draft. The Oil City, LA native has seen an increase of nearly two rebounds per game from his freshman season, and is averaging an impressive 2.3 blocks per game. That’s actually down from 2.5 blocks a game last season.
Williams’ shooting has improved 5% from last season, sitting at 60% for the year. It is worth noting that the big man was suspended, along with two Aggies teammates, for the first two games of this season for a violation of university policy. The specifics of the violation have not been made clear.
Here are his freshman season highlights:
15. Jarred Vanderbilt—SF, 6-9 215, Kentucky (Fr.)
The highly touted Vanderbilt has appeared in just three games this season after missing the first 17 with a foot injury suffered in practice during the pre-season. He has yet to log 15 minutes in a game. His placement will likely fluctuate over the next several months, depending on his adjustment to Kentucky’s system, as well as his health status.
Vanderbilt was the 19th overall prospect in the class of 2017, according to ESPN. He was also a McDonald’s All-American. Hailing from the Houston area, he’s regarded as an extremely athletic wing who has superb ball handling skills, is a quality defender and passer, but struggles shooting the ball.
Here are his highlights from the 2015 Tarkanian Classic, a premier high school tournament held annually in Las Vegas, NV:
16. Hamidou Diallo—SG, 6-5 200, Kentucky (R-Fr.)
Diallo, like Bridges, is an electrifying athlete, and is the second leading scorer for the Kentucky Wildcats at 12.7 points a game. He’s also averaging 4.7 rebounds per game, as well as one steal. He has no trouble getting to the rim and is an active defender, but struggles to knock down jumpers consistently, shooting 44% on the season. After sitting out last season (he joined the team last January), the Queens native contemplated entering the 2017 draft, before ultimately decided to return to school.
A consensus five-star recruit out of high school, the young man is an intriguing and versatile prospect, and has plenty of season left to improve his stock. Here are his highlights from the month of December:
17. Lonnie Walker IV—SG, 6-4 200, Miami (Fr.)
The McDonald’s All-American and ESPN’s 12th rated prospect in the class of 2017, Walker has had an up-and-down freshman season for the Hurricanes. However, he is getting more consistent as the season progresses, scoring 25 points in the ‘Canes OT victory over Louisville on Wednesday night (one off of his season high, 26 versus Boston University). The Reading, PA native had 19 against Duke on January 15th, and is averaging just over 10 points a game on the season, to go along with 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Walker has a 6-10 wingspan, according to Miami’s official athletics site.
Here are his highlights from the Louisville game:
18. Bruno Fernando—PF/C, 6-10 245, Maryland (Fr.)
Fernando is an international man of mystery. The Angola native was a four-star recruit out of IMG Academy, and represented his country in the Rio Olympics qualifiers. He is averaging 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks for the Terrapins, shooting just under 60% from the field. There’s concern around his health though, as he left Monday’s loss with an ankle sprain, in addition to already missing some time this season due to injury.
Here is a Big Ten Network profile on Fernando from last month:
19. Trevon Duval—PG, 6-2 190, Duke (Fr.)
While college teammate Marvin Bagley gets far more attention, Duval is quietly putting together a solid season of his own. The point guard from New Castle, DE is averaging 11.5 points, 2.1 rebounds and six assists on the season for the Blue Devils. He is a solid ball handler and play maker, but like others on this list, struggles with a consistent jump shot. However, he does excel at getting to the rim and is shooting just shy of 46% from the field (but only 25.9% from three).
Duval was also in Portland Thanksgiving weekend for the PK80, where he helped lead Duke to the Motion Bracket championship. Here are his November highlights:
20. Dzanan Musa—SF, 6-9 195, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The 18-year old has been playing with Cedevita of the Croatian League since the 2015-16 season. He is averaging 10.6 points a game this season, along with 3.4 rebounds and is shooting 48% from the field and 36% from three point land.
Here are Musa’s highlights, complete with a scouting breakdown from Draft Express:
As noted above, there is still plenty of time before the draft. Much can change for the Blazers and these draft prospects. Assuming for now that the list comes close, would you be excited to see any of these players in a Blazer uniform next season? Have any other college or international prospects caught your eye? Let us know!