The Trail Blazers secured just two victories in their last 10 games, placing them eight games below .500 just before the midpoint of the season. The Blazers’ position behind both the Grizzlies and Spurs for the final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs could have some fans looking towards the future.
For the most part, the college schedule has shifted firmly to conference play, setting the stage for a fresh batch of NBA Mock Drafts. Here is a look at what the experts are saying about the Blazers and the prospects expected to be in their range.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has the Blazers looking to Auburn wing Isaac Okoro late in the lottery. According to Vecenie, Okoro’s blend of defense and athleticism addresses a pair of Portland’s needs.
Okoro fits that billing, and also helps fill a position of need a defense-first wing athlete. And to call him defense first is real. Okoro might be the best defensive wing in the country right now, and he’s only 18 years old. He’s an absolute monster athletically, and he flies around and makes plays while also consistently staying close enough guarding position to handle his man. Offensively, things are a bit more of a work in progress. Okoro is an exceptional finisher due to that leaping ability, and his feel for the game is strong. He makes plays for his teammates, and can pass it a bit. He’s averaging 12.9 points for a well-rounded Auburn scoring attack.
Okoro was featured at the No. 2 spot in our debut of the Blazer’s Edge 2020 Big Board earlier this month.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo also has the Blazers looking to Okoro at pick No. 14. Along with highlighting Okoro’s upside, Woo touched on the freshman’s shooting troubles.
While it’s tough to find minutes for non-shooters who aren’t special in other ways, Okoro’s defense and efficiency around the rim give him a chance at succeeding in spite of it. And if he can work himself into even an average catch-and-shoot player, he’ll be extremely valuable. Okoro could be the type of versatile perimeter stopper Portland sorely needs.
Matt Babcock, of Babcock Hoops, updated their 2020 Mock Draft last week. Instead of Okoro, Babcock has the Blazers looking to Vanderbilt wing Aaron Nesmith.
Nesmith is a smooth-operating 6-foot-6 perimeter player in the midst of a massive leap under head coach Jerry Stackhouse. Nesmith is averaging 23 points per game, more than double his output from last season. The leap in Nesmith’s three-point shooting is truly astonishing. He is shooting 52.2 percent from beyond the arc on 8.2 attempts per game.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony broke from the other mocks and looked to the power forward position for Portland. Givony has the Blazers selecting Dayton forward Obi Toppin at No. 14.
Toppin, a 6-foot-9 do-it-all forward, surged up draft boards thanks to a stellar showing at the Maui Invitational earlier in the season. Toppin is averaging 19.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. From the field, Toppin is connecting on 63.3 percent of his attempts.
*Editor’s Note: Could the Blazers trade their first-round pick? Yes. Will the draft board shift over the next few months? Yes. Looking at the draft does not equal waving a white flag.