The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile dives into the game of Isaiah Stewart, a big man out of Washington who projects to be a late first round pick in this year’s NBA draft.
- Height: 6’9”
- Weight: 250
- Wingspan: 7’4”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: C
- Age: 19
- Projected draft range: 20-35
- PTS: 17.0 | Per 40: 21.1
- REB: 8.8 | Per 40: 10.9
- AST: 0.5 | Per 40: 1.0
- BLK: 2.1 | Per 40: 2.6
- FG%: 57.0
- 3P%: 25.0
- FT%: 77.4
Isaiah Stewart is a big boy, and he knows how to use his strength as well as anyone in this class. He does most of his work in the paint, and is a deft post scorer with a variety of moves. He’s strong, but he also utilizes his touch around the rim to score. It helps him that he’s got a high-motor and works to get himself into position for those kinds of easy buckets, and when he misses a shot or a teammate misses it, he has great instincts as a rebounder.
Defensively, he works just as hard to fight for position and attack the boards. He played in a scheme that was predominantly zone at Washington and did well as the anchor for that team. His instincts for ball tracking was on display on this end as he aggressively hunted for blocks and rebounds. To put things simply, Stewart is aware of his frame and he plays his butt off on every possession.
Stewart has an old-school game, and while that in and of itself isn’t necessarily a weakness, it does hurt his stock. Offensively, he wasn’t much of a playmaker. He looked to shoot when he had the ball in his hands far too often. When he did pass, it was usually off-target. He’s also not much of a shooter right now. There’s hope that his shot could develop into something nice with a free throw percentage of 77 percent, but his mechanics need work if that’s going to happen. And while he has great size and works hard, he lacks the explosiveness desired among dominant roll-men.
On the other side of the ball, he should be fine as an interior defender considering his long wingspan and sturdy build, but he didn’t look great when he switched out on the perimeter. He’ll need to improve laterally when he gets switched onto smaller opponents. Unlike his time in college, he won’t have the luxury of parking in the post at the next level.
Stewart was a one-and-done prospect, putting up excellent numbers in his lone year at Washington. As a freshman he averaged a near double-double at 17 points and 8.8 rebounds per game along with 2.1 blocks. He made the Pac-12 All-Freshman team and All-Pac-12 first team as well. He was tied for first in the Pac-12 in double-doubles and was in the top three for blocked shots, total rebounds, and offensive rebounds.
Isaiah Stewart owns a vintage game that both worked well at the college level. Stewart battled inside night in and night out, and there’s no question he’ll at least continue to fight at the next level. He’s smooth inside and aggressive defensively, things that are always nice for a big. However, his transition to the next level is dependent on whether or not he can develop his jump shot and improve his lateral quickness. If he can do those things, he will unlock an entire new level of modern versatility.
As much as I love Stewart’s game, I don’t see Portland as the right fit for him. Sure, he should be available at No. 16, and if the Blazers were really enamored with him they could do some maneuvering to get themselves in the best range to find him. But in the end, I don’t think his style of play or where he’d be at in his development is ideal for Portland. Yes, he’s a high-motor, high-character guy and the Blazers have a history of doing well with developing those kinds of players, but I don’t see him as the best big man for Portland.
There are other options available that I think would better align with the Blazers’ needs, including Xavier Tillman, a big man that I wrote about previously. Someone like Tillman, a player who’s a savvy pick-and-roll prospect with a more modern game, fits with the Blazers better than the old-school post-oriented game that Stewart possesses. That’s not to say Stewart isn’t an intriguing prospect; I personally think that he works hard enough and there’s enough to his shot that he will carve a role for himself in the NBA. I just don’t think that role is in Portland.