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Sweet 16: NBA Draft Prospects Worthy of the Blazers’ Attention

A look at a quartet of players that are poised to play their way on to the Blazers’ NBA Draft board in the Sweet 16.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Tennessee Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers season took a significant turn after Jusuf Nurkic’s season-ending injury, but the NBA Draft will come and go regardless of the change in expectations. The NCAA Tournament has narrowed to 16 teams prior to this afternoon’s action and there are still plenty of prospects worthy of Portland’s attention.

Will the next Blazers’ draft pick rise to the occasion under the bright lights? In preparation for this weekend’s games, Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald compiled a list of four players worth tracking.

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Grant Williams | Tennessee Volunteers | PF | Junior

Age: 20 | HT: 6’7” | WT: 236

2018-19 Stats: 18.8 PPG | 7.5 RPG | 3.1 APG

Next Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers | Thursday | 4:29 PST | TBS

It is tough to find a blemish on Williams’ resume. In his three years at Tennessee he has secured SEC Player of the Year honors on two occasions. Williams possesses a superb feel for the game on both ends of the court. Offensively, he stays patient and limits mistakes. Whether it is finding open teammates out of the high post or positioning himself for offensive rebounds—Williams has a penchant for generating opportunities out of thin air. Given his lack of size, Williams’ impact on the defensive end is just as impressive as his work on offense. He regularly positions himself to make plays in the paint and he holds his own when forced to corral opponents on the perimeter.

Williams has several NBA-ready skills that should garner attention from the Blazers. His size will raise questions, but his free throw shooting (82.4 percent) suggests that he could blossom into a stretch four.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Colgate Raiders vs Tennessee Volunteers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Admiral Schofield | Tennessee Volunteers | SG | Senior

Age: 21 | HT: 6’6” | WT: 241

2018-19 Stats: 16.4 PPG | 6.1 RPG | 41.5 3P%

Next Opponent: Purdue Boilermakers | Thursday | 4:29 PST | TBS

Tennessee’s duo of Schofield and Williams tied opposing teams in knots this season. While Williams works the interior, Schofield thrives on the perimeter. Armed with an NBA-ready frame, the Illinois native is capable of getting to any spot on the floor. On the wing, Schofield has steadily improved his three-point shooting over his four years in Knoxville. Outside of creating for himself, Schofield’s game does have a handful of noticeable flaws. He has a tendency to put his head down on offense when he has the ball, which can disrupt the flow of the action.

Given Schofield’s age and modest upside, he should be available when the Blazers’ are on the clock. If Portland has to rebuild its perimeter depth this offseason, Schofield would be an attractive option for immediate minutes as a role player.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament- Iona vs North Carolina Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Cameron Johnson | North Carolina Tar Heels | G/F | Senior

Age: 23 | HT: 6’9” | WT: 210

2018-19 Stats: 16.9 PPG | 5.8 RPG | 46.3 3P%

Next Opponent: Auburn Tigers | Friday | 4:29 PST | TBS

Johnson, who transferred from Pittsburgh to North Carolina midway through his college career, is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. His work from beyond the arc has been on full display in this year’s tournament. In the Tar Heels’ first two games, Johnson has combined to go 7-16 from distance. At 6-foot-9, Johnson’s length makes him a nightmare for defenders that are late to rotate.

Like Schofield, Johnson’s age should put him in the Blazers’ range. He has thrived as a complementary player at North Carolina—making him a logical fit next to Portland’s established backcourt.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Auburn vs New Mexico State Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Chuma Okeke | Auburn Tigers | PF | Sophomore

Age: 20 | HT: 6’8” | WT: 230

2018-19 Stats: 11.8 PPG | 6.7 RPG | 1.2 BPG

Next Opponent: North Carolina Tar Heels | Friday | 4:29 PST | TBS

Okeke has rocketed up draft boards in the second half of the season. Injuries to high-profile big men like Jontay Porter and Bol Bol have put Okeke’s perimeter-oriented skills in demand. His NBA upside goes deeper than just supply and demand, though. Okeke has continued to make strides in big moments throughout Auburn’s successful 2018-19 season. He notched 18 points in the Tigers’ win over the Volunteers in the SEC Tournament and he has recorded double-digit point totals in both outings in the big dance. In the victory over Tennessee, Okeke connected on five of his nine attempts from beyond the arc.

All eyes will be on Okeke as the draft approaches. If he does test the waters this summer, the Blazers would be wise to bring Okeke in for a closer look during the pre-draft process.