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Boom Or Bust: Final Thoughts On The Trail Blazers’ 2018 NBA Draft Options

Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald answers questions regarding the choices Portland will face on draft night.

2013 NBA Draft

The 2018 NBA Draft has arrived, and the Trail Blazers will finally put the No. 24 pick to use. After months of preparation for this day, I wanted to answer a few questions from our readers before Adam Silver steps to the podium with Portland’s selection in his hands.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to send me your inquiries. Here are a few of my favorites:

One of the most interesting parts of this draft class for me was the large group of perimeter players in the post-lottery range. I believe the Blazers could trade down five or six picks and still get a player of the same caliber as they would have if they stayed at pick No. 24. The key to pulling off a fruitful move down the board will rely on Portland finding a trade partner that covets a specific player in that group. The Blazers could use cap-friendly players, so my guess is that they will explore trading down to gain assets.

I combined these two to address Portland’s interest in IMG Academy’s Anfernee Simons. Mainly because he skipped college, Simons is one of the biggest unknowns in this draft. If the 19-year-old guard displayed the same scoring prowess from his post-graduate season against NCAA competition, he would be a lottery pick. If the Blazers decide to swing for the fences, Simons is probably the guy.

In regards to my personal approval of Simons, I am lukewarm. Simons’ guarded path to the NBA is a red flag for me. From his brief stint at Montverde Academy to his limited exposure after leaving IMG Academy, I struggled to evaluate his skillset. I understand not wanting to risk injury, but I wish he would have competed at the Nike Hoop Summit and Jordan Brand Classic earlier this year.

If you want to know more about Simons, I did a full profile on him last week.

Creighton’s Khyri Thomas might not have the best ceiling of the players likely to be available at pick No. 24, but he has multiple skills that will translate immediately. He is a relentless defender, and he is a competent three-point shooter. He is too short (6’3”) to compete for the Blazers’ starting small forward spot, but he would give the reserve unit an instant boost of talent.

Recent mock drafts show Thomas sliding down the board, so he is player to watch if the Blazers trade down.

Here is a full profile on Thomas from earlier this year.

I have been on Jacob Evans’ bandwagon for several weeks now. The Cincinnati wing can play multiple positions, and his height (6’6”) would be a plus at his natural position (shooting guard). Evans plays to his strengths and is aware of his weaknesses, which would fit perfectly with Portland’s established backcourt. Based on his defense, I have a tough time favoring another player over Evans at pick No. 24. Is his offense perfect? No. But it is rare to find a perfect player outside of the top tier of the draft.

For a closer look at Evans’ game, check out my detailed profile on him from earlier this year.

President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has a history trying find gold in other teams’ waste bins. Mason Plumlee, Noah Vonleh, Thomas Robinson, and Wade Baldwin are just a few examples of Olshey’s willingness to give underutilized players a second look. Rookie contracts are extremely valuable, so the pool of available players might be a little shallow this summer. Even with that in mind, I would keep an eye on Phoenix if they select Arizona center DeAndre Ayton. Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender are both under 21, and one of them will be the odd man out in the Suns’ post rotation next season. It would be a gamble for Portland, but a call to Phoenix wouldn’t hurt.

Who do you feel will over/under perform relative to their projected draft position?

Questions from Snake Plissken, Moscow ID

First off, thank you for sending me an e-mail Mr. Plissken. I am a huge fan of your basketball skills.

I feel like Oklahoma’s Trae Young is the consensus boom-or-bust prospect in the lottery this year, but Kentucky forward Kevin Knox holds that title for me. Knox is just 18 years old, and played on an up-and-down Wildcats squad last season. If he reaches his potential, he could become the best player from this class. If he fails to develop, his descent could be rapid.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who took the time to send me questions. Be sure to check out the Blazer’s Edge Mock Draft (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) prior to tonight’s festivities.

—Steve / @SteveDHoops /