The injury-depleted Trail Blazers’ uninspiring 15-21 record has drastically shifted the scope and focus on the 2019-20 season. As the calendar turns to 2020, Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald has transferred a portion of his focus to the incoming draft class.
This is not raising a white flag. If any player has proven that they can lead a team out despair and into the postseason—it is Damian Lillard. With that out of the way, here is the first look at our Blazers-centric NBA Draft Big Board.
Before we get to the list, here is what you should know about the Blazer’s Edge Big Board:
- This list will shift and grow as the 2020 NBA Draft approaches. The first board includes three players that could fit into the Blazers’ plans. The board will expand to five players later this month.
- Prospects are ranked according to Portland’s perceived needs and lightly balanced with a “best player available” mentality.
- Along with the current standings, our projections are formed by utilizing models from both Tankathon and FiveThirtyEight.
No. 1 | Jaden McDaniels | F | Washington
Jaden McDaniels’ blend of scoring touch and explosive athleticism make him an ideal two-way prospect. Buoyed by a wiry 6-foot-9 frame, the Seattle native has upside at both forward positions at the next level. McDaniels is more than just an impressive athlete. His surprisingly-effective shooting from beyond the arc has firmly cemented him as a lottery prospect. Through 14 games, the 19-year-old forward has connected on 37.3 percent of his three-point attempts.
For the Blazers, the fit is obvious. You can never have enough talent at the forward position. A potential pairing with Nassir Little or Zach Collins is a recipe for longterm success. Right now, the 15-win Blazers would have to get closer to the 11-win Pelicans if they hope to have a shot at McDaniels.
PTS: 13.5 | REB: 5.3 | FG%: 43.1 | 3P%: 37.3
No. 2 | Isaac Okoro | SF | Auburn
There is nothing flashy about Isaac Okoro, but the defensive upside that the 18-year-old possesses is undeniable. Thrust into a starting role at Auburn, Okoro has spent time guarding all five positions. Armed with an NBA-ready body, the 6-foot-6 wing can smother opponents on the perimeter and anchor himself in the post. Offensively, Okoro does the majority of his work at the rim. When moving downhill, he plays through contact and attacks space with purpose. From distance, Okoro averages just under two attempts per game and connects on a meager 21.7 percent of those shots.
Based on his versatility on defense, Okoro could grow into the multi-positional defender the Blazers need. Okoro’s size and athleticism could form a dangerous backcourt tandem with Anfernee Simons if he shifts to shooting guard at the next level.
PTS: 12.8 | REB: 4.5 | FG%: 57.1 | 3P%: 21.7
No. 3 | Deni Avdija | F | Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)
A month ago, Deni Avdija would have been at No. 1 on this list. At just 19 years old, Avdija possesses experience in both professional and international competition. Unfortunately, he has been unable to rise above his limited role during EuroLeague competition.
Here is what I had to say about Avdija back in November:
Offensively, Avdija possesses the court vision and touch that is rarely found in players of his age. Those traits are the driving force behind the comparison that places Avdija alongside current Mavericks star Luka Doncic. The 18-year-old forward’s passing skills are full display when he takes the wheel of Israel’s youth side in international competition.
Avdija has helped lead Israel to two consecutive gold medals in the FIBA Europe Under-20 Championship. In the 2019 tournament Avdija averaged 18.4 points, 5.3 assists and 8.3 rebounds per game. That statistical output combined with a gold medal finish to earn him tournament MVP honors.
PTS: 2.8 | REB: 2.5 | FG%: 42.5 | 3P%: 18.8
*Stats pulled from EuroLeague competition, not Israel’s domestic league.