The NCAA Tournament is underway and the pool of prospects that the Trail Blazers will choose from in the 2019 NBA Draft are on display. Once again, Portland’s President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will look to the latter stages of the first round to supplement the Blazers’ roster.
While most pundits hustled to deliver their bracket predictions, the NBA-centric analysts put together a fresh crop of mock drafts. With an established guard tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum already on the roster that is accompanied by last year’s draft haul of rookie guards, most experts predict that the Blazers will be looking to the frontcourt on draft night.
Along with the results from the mock drafts, Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald will comment on the prospects and predictions proposed by the experts.
CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave has the Blazers selecting Washington’s Matisse Thybulle at pick No. 24. Forgrave delivered the goods on Thybulle’s impressive defensive resume when explaining the pick.
An elite and versatile defender. The new Pac-12 career record holder for steals, Thybulle is averaging 3.4 steals and 2.2 blocks per game this season in Washington’s zone defense. He can shoot it from deep, too, shooting 36 percent from 3 in his career.
Steve’s Take: It is tough to disagree with the logic here. In my prospect-centered post earlier this week, I also listed Thybulle as a natural fit for the Blazers. Given his age and modest upside, the 22-year-old wing should be available when it is Portland’s time to pick. Ceiling aside, teams know what they are getting with Thybulle. His defensive chops would be a welcome addition to coach Terry Stotts’ rotation and something would have to go terribly wrong for the Blazers to rely on Thybulle’s scoring for wins.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo has the Blazers selecting North Carolina’s Cam Johnson at pick No. 23. Woo detailed Johnson’s excellent three-point shooing in his analysis.
Portland has tried a lot of combinations around Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum over the years, but they don’t have an elite catch-and-shoot guy like Johnson on the roster. After watching him knock down big shots all season while sustaining an absurd 46.5% clip, there’s a real chance Johnson ends up as a first-round selection. If he’s this consistent an outside threat, he’ll be immensely valuable to have under team control long-term, defensive concerns aside. For playoff teams looking to fill that need, he’s squarely on the radar.
Steve’s Take: My biggest reservation with this pick has nothing to do with Johnson’s fit with the Blazers—I just have him slotted to be selected prior to the Blazers’ pick. Johnson, who transferred from Pittsburgh to North Carolina, has blossomed into one of the best outside shooting threats in the country. Due to his age, 23 years old, the Pennsylvania native will find suitors just outside of the lottery.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have the Blazers selecting Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke at pick No. 22. Clarke’s intensity on defense is undeniable, but Givony explained that several scouts have serious doubts about his fit in the NBA.
NBA scouts sound split on Clarke. While many appreciate his energy, athleticism and versatility, others question his lack of size, length and bulk as a center, plus his limited shooting range as a power forward. It’s difficult for scouts to find an ideal comparison for him, and the fact that he’ll turn 23 prior to playing his first game in the NBA will likely to be held against him as well. That he’s only hit two 3s in 27 games since his breakout at the Maui Invitational hasn’t helped matters, though he might be able to show off his touch more in pre-draft workouts.
Steve’s Take: Along with Thybulle, Clarke was another player that I listed in my pre-tournament prospect watch. Clarke’s paltry perimeter shooting numbers will come under fire prior to the draft. Gonzaga doesn’t rely on him for shooting, so he has to prove he can expand his range in pre-draft workouts. Clarke’s defense would give the Blazers another forward that can cover multiple assignments, but his fit on offense would be clunky with Jusuf Nurkic in the middle.
Sporting News’ Chris Stone has the Blazers selecting USC guard Kevin Porter Jr. at pick No. 22. Stone cites Porter’s creativity when explaining the pick.
Portland seems to value having multiple playmakers on the floor at all times, and while Porter has been inconsistent this season, he can certainly create his own shot. The 18-year-old excels at generating space for his jumper, in particular.
He’ll need to figure out additional ways to contribute to winning if he wants to be a valuable piece on a title contender.
Steve’s Take: I had the pleasure of witnessing Porter take over a Team USA practice in the lead up to the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit. He is a dynamic playmaker on offense, but I agree with Stone’s assessment of Porter’s lack of consistency. The Washington native started the college season by reaching double-digit point totals in his first five outings with the Trojans. After that run, he registered just six. Armed with the tools to wow teams in pre-draft workouts, I predict that Porter will be off the board before the Blazers pick.