The NCAA Tournament is nearly complete and the pool of prospects that the Trail Blazers will choose from in the 2019 NBA Draft have gotten a chance to shine. 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.
NBA Draft analysts have delivered 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 look to the frontcourt on draft night.
Spencer Pearlman of Yahoo Sports went to a familiar name for the Blazers at pick No. 24. Once again, North Carolina’s sweet-shooting Cameron Johnson is pegged to land in Portland. Pearlman explained Johnson’s injury history is worth the risk for the Blazers.
Johnson is one of the best shooters in the country and watching him space the floor with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum would be something to see. There are some injury concerns, but adding another floor spacer with a quick release and the ability to shoot off movement will open up the middle for more drives and more room to operate in the post.
NBADraft.net has the Blazers looking to the post at pick No. 25. According to the site, Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke could continue his basketball career in the Pacific Northwest.
Clarke produced an eye-popping 36 points in Gonzaga’s victory over Baylor in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He is a bit undersized by traditional post standards (6’8”), but there is no denying his ability to alter shots in the paint. Clarke averaged 3.2 blocks per game in his lone season with the Bulldogs.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie (subscription required) has the Blazers selecting Maryland center Bruno Fernando at pick No. 22. Vecenie detailed that Portland’s system is a natural fit for Fernando’s skillset.
The Blazers use their bigs in a lot of dribble hand-off actions on the perimeter, which works perfectly for Fernando. Additionally, the way they cover pick-and-rolls fits perfectly for the Angolan center, as he won’t be asked to switch out onto the perimeter, and instead will just be asked to use his length in the paint.
Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler has the Blazers going big with Texas forward Jaxson Hayes at pick No. 25. Hayes, a 6-foot-11 freshman, burst on to the scene with his athletic play for the Longhorns. Texas just captured the NIT title, but Hayes has been sidelined since exiting the Big 12 Tournament with an injured left knee.
Tests later confirmed that Hayes’ injury didn’t include structural damage. According to Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Drew Davison, the talented 18-year-old big man is nearing a decision on his future.