The NBA Draft is still months away, but with the college basketball season heating up, the time is now for teams to put their draft boards together and start to key in on certain prospects. For the Portland Trail Blazers, this means a pick that will likely fall somewhere in the 18-24 range of the first round. While the likes of RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson will be long gone by that point, there figures to be plenty of talent left on the board that can help the team going forward.
Here are a few prospects to keep an eye on that as the season progresses, that could find themselves in Portland’s range come draft day. I’m focusing on wings, as that looks to still be the main area for improvement the way the team is currently constructed. It’s also worth noting the the Blazers don’t have a second round pick this year, so will only have one chance to strike gold barring any trades.
SF De’Andre Hunter—Virginia (6-7, 225)
Hunter would be an ideal fit for Portland. He would have likely been a first-round pick in 2018, but elected to return to school for another season. The 6-7 sophomore is averaging just shy of 14 points a game, in addition to just over five rebounds. He is an excellent defender, and has also shown the ability to knock down the three-point shot, shooting 40% from distance, while also displaying a knack for getting to the rim. Keep an eye on him as Virginia navigates ACC play over the next couple months.
SF Nassir Little—UNC (6-6, 220)
Admittedly, it is likely a long shot for Little to still be on the board when the Blazers end up picking. But given that he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations that come with being a consensus top-10 recruit, there’s a slight chance he could end up slipping out of the lottery. The freshman has shown flashes of what he’s capable of, and is explosive at the rim, but is averaging just 10.5 points while only shooting 23% from three. We should know a lot more about Little as we get further into conference play, and he has a chance to prove himself against excellent competition.
SF Ignas Brazdeikis—Michigan (6-7, 215)
A Lithuanian native who played his high school ball in Ontario, and just turned 20 despite being a true freshman, “Iggy” has been a huge part of the Wolverine’s success this season. He is an excellent shooter, at a nearly 40% clip from three and is averaging 16 points and 5.3 rebounds a game. While he isn’t yet a great defender, he has a high motor and averages almost a steal per game. Offensively, he’s NBA ready, and showcases an excellent scoring ability, both at the rim and from distance. Hunter is the more well-rounded player, but if he’s off the board when Portland picks, Brazdeikis wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.
KZ Okpala—Stanford (6-9, 215)
The sophomore is rising up draft boards as the season progresses, and has seen great improvement from his freshman season, raising his scoring total from 10 to 16.6 points a game, and nearly doubling his rebounding total. He’s a tremendous athlete, though considered by most to be a bit of a project. That being said, he has drastically improved as a three-point shooter this season (from 22% to 46%) and has plenty of upside. The Pac 12 is having a dreadful year, but Okpala’s potential gives NBA fans a reason to watch.
Do any of these prospects intrigue you? Who would you like to see the Blazers target in the draft? Let us know below!
You can catch Ryne every Tuesday on Blazer’s Edge Radio, live at noon on XRAY FM!