The 2020-21 regular season is in the books for the Trail Blazers and the 2021 NBA Draft is quickly approaching. For the first time since 2016, the Blazers are set to enter draft night without a selection. However, that doesn’t mean that President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey will sit on the sidelines during the process.
Today’s profile looks at center Luka Garza. During his four-year run at Iowa, Garza put up astonishing numbers and earned several individual awards in the process.
- Height: 6’11”
- WT: 243
- Wingspan: 7’1”
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: C
- Age: 22
- Projected draft range: 44-60
- PTS: 24.1 | Per 40: 30.6
- REB: 8.7 | Per 40: 11.1
- BLK: 1.6 | Per 40: 2.1
- AST: 1.7 | Per 40: 2.2
- FG%: 55.3
- 3P%: 44.0
- FT%: 70.9
Garza’s time at Iowa featured consistent growth that culminated in him becoming arguably the best player in college basketball. Offensively, Garza is an effective scorer from all three levels. In the paint, he possesses an abundance of patience that is on full display when he utilizes his assortment of classic post moves. From getting his defender off balance with decisive pivots to leaning into a fadeaway jumper, Garza has a sizable list to work off of in the post.
Outside of the paint, Garza is a solid floor spacer. As a senior, Garza torched opposing defenses with his well-timed catch-and-shoot looks out of pick-and-pop actions. His shot is consistent and it features a high release point.
Outside of his scoring, Garza plays with size in the post and consistently positions himself to secure rebounds. Fueled by his precise footwork and instincts, Garza is a master of securing valuable offensive rebounds. As a passer, Garza’s patience is once again on display. He routinely beats added pressure and finds open teammates. Despite his high usage as a senior, Garza averaged just 1.5 turnovers per game.
It is hard to dispute Garza’s lights-out production at the college level, but serious concerns regarding his defensive mobility are cause for concern. Garza’s suspect quickness should make him a frequent target of opponents. In the NBA, he is going to get tested in repeated pick-and-roll sets.
Offensively, Garza’s dominant post-up game could lose its effectiveness against established NBA centers. Athletically, Garza is not an explosive finisher at the rim. The majority of his dunks require him to load up with both feet before launching to the rim. At 22 years old, Garza’s ceiling is modest at best.
Garza’s point-filled season at Iowa put him on the receiving end of player of the year honors from multiple outlets. He led the Big Ten Conference in scoring in his final two seasons. In the NCAA Tournament, he led the Hawkeyes to the second round, while in his final outing, he notched 36 points in a loss to Oregon.
Buoyed by his multi-faceted scoring ability, Garza is a marquee prospect for the latter stages of the 2021 NBA Draft. His floor spacing and rebounding instincts should carry over to the NBA with relative ease. Defensively, his ability to stay in front of opponents inside pick-and-roll sets could dictate how much time he spends on the floor. If Garza is unable to mitigate his lack of foot speed on defense, he could be limited to an offensive specialist role.
Garza’s game continued to evolve during his time at Iowa and that trend could certainly continue at the professional level. He weighed in at 243 pounds at the NBA Combine, over 20 pounds lighter than his playing weight with the Hawkeyes.
Due to their current payroll situation, the Blazers have to be creative in the offseason. Garza’s defensive flaws and modest upside are clear flags, but his established track record should make him a desirable option for the end of the bench. The Blazers have experience with the flaws that Garza presents, though. Enes Kanter’s defensive deficiencies are eerily similar. For incoming coach Chauncey Billups, he has seen first hand how Tyronn Lue maximized Ivica Zubac’s offensive strengths.
Defensive issues aside, Garza has several traits that typically translate to the NBA: three-point accuracy, rebounding, and court vision. The Blazers could do much worse if they decide to get back into the second round.