The 2018 NBA Draft is approaching quickly, and the Portland Trail Blazers will be looking to add a talented youngster at pick No. 24. In preparation for the draft, Steve Dewald exchanged Portland-centric questions with NBADraft.net contributor Michael Visenberg.
The Suns are almost on the clock, so let’s get right into it.
Steve Dewald: All drafts aren’t created equal, so how would you rank this 2018 class? Specifically, how does the post-lottery talent compare to previous years?
Michael Visenberg: With the 2017 NBA Draft being one of the deeper drafts over the last number of years, 2018 is considered to also be quite strong at the top, with more of a drop off after the lottery. Ultimately, it is really hard to pinpoint whether this draft has a Donovan Mitchell or Kyle Kuzma, but it certainly has some players who could fit roles down the line to contribute on winning teams. I think the draft seems to be on par with 2014 and 2015, as both were considered relatively strong as well, though maybe have not fully lived up to promise. Still, we should see a number of players in this draft start off of the bat and likely have a few strong candidates for Rookie of the Year.
SD: What type of players do you expect to be on the board when Portland picks at No. 24? It certainly looks like there will be a handful or perimeter players in that range.
MV: Portland did go big with both of their selections last year (Zach Collins at 10 and Caleb Swanigan at 26) and while problems still persist getting offense from the forward spots, they could very well be looking to shore up their backcourt depth. With Shabazz Napier leaving no real guarantee of returning, they could be looking at a point guard, or maybe even a utility wing. It certainly seems like those are the players Portland has mainly worked out ahead of the draft, and while they are probably not likely to bring the same production as the veterans that they will be either replacing or battling for playing time, they could eventually be worked into solid supporting pieces.
SD: Who is a name Portland should keep an eye on in that range? Is there anyone who sticks out as an obvious fit for the Blazers?
MV: Think there are a few players Portland could be targeting, so will go down the line. They recently brought in Troy Brown for a workout, and I think Brown has a lot of the same qualities of an Evan Turner, though is bigger and maybe further along at a similar stage. Even if Brown takes some time and there are questions with his shooting, he could be a strong secondary handler and play good perimeter defense while fitting really well into a team construct. Portland was also one of the teams that worked out Anfernee Simons, the postgraduate point guard from IMG Academy who is known for his shooting and ability off of the dribble. Simons shut down working out and it was rumored he had a promise. While the Blazers continued workouts afterwards, it still seems like a possible microwave scorer like Simons could be someone they would have interest in developing. While those two are typically projected to go before 24, I see Jacob Evans, Jalen Brunson and Landry Shamet as possible targets as well.
SD: On the flipside, is there a prospect that Portland should be weary of?
MV: While he had a strong junior campaign, with a solid frame, and he was also his conference’s defensive player of the year, I am not sure about Khyri Thomas’ fit with the Blazers. He really struggled in pick-and-roll situations and does not seem to be the playmaker the team is looking for off of the bench. He is a solid shooter and has some tools, but I am not completely sold on his translation to the NBA. Aaron Holiday is another player who I might be weary of, as I question his decision-making. While he was known for playing some good on-ball defense, his defensive rating was above the team average each year he was at UCLA. He was a green room invitee and has NBA pedigree with his brothers Jrue and Justin, but am still not sold on his next level impact.
SD: It is a long shot, but do you think there is a player in the mid-lottery that is worthy of a potential CJ McCollum trade? Obviously a deal would involve more pieces, but is there a prospect in the 5-14 range you like for the Lillard-led Blazers?
MV: With the issues the Blazers had getting offense from the forward spots, Michael Porter would be someone who would likely ramp things up in that department. While there are legitimate injury concerns around his back and recently hips, there is also a chance for him to turn into a floor stretching, 20 points per game scorer who could potentially be a plus defensively as well. He did not blow anyone away with his college performance and looked to lack his typical explosive pop in those last two games. Still, Porter is near 6’11 and if he was indeed just shaking off the rust from his injury, he could possibly be a steal in the mid-lottery. Though I personally believe the Blazers should try to roll with CJ McCollum until they have a suitable replacement for the guard spot next to Dame, Porter would at least ease some of the offensive burden and bolster the Blazers’ frontcourt.