With March Madness just around the corner and the NBA season heading into the home stretch, it’s time for lottery-bound teams like the Portland Trail Blazers to shift their focus towards this year’s draft class.
While the top players of the class feature several participants in March Madness, there’s also a good mix of players who won’t be in the March spotlight.
Players like Nikola Jovic will watch from overseas and others like Dyson Daniels and MarJon Beauchamp are hooping in the G-League.
However, in the most recent mock draft from For The Win’s Bryan Kalbrosky, he mocks two college players to Portland with the 8th and 9th overall picks.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (via NOP): Shaedon Sharpe
Even though head coach John Calipari said Shaedon Sharpe is not expected to play for Kentucky this season, ESPN’s Draft Express reports NBA teams would be “surprised if he isn’t” in this class. Assuming that he does elect to turn pro rather than risk injury and/or potentially damage his draft stock in the NCAA, Sharpe is a tricky evaluation but a likely lottery pick.
The Trail Blazers traded longtime guard CJ McCollum and are reconstructing their roster. They could pair the 18-year-old Sharpe with Anfernee Simons (who also didn’t play college basketball before he was selected by Portland) in their backcourt. This would at least give the front office a blueprint for their rebuild if they next decide to move on from Damian Lillard.
Sharpe is definitely a project, especially without any college experience. However, Portland has shown in the past a willingness to bet on players regardless of experience (see: Simons, Anfernee) and have it work out for them. With Damian Lillard and Simons projected to be next season’s backcourt, Sharpe can come off the bench and wait in the wings for his opportunity as he develops and learns behind the starting duo.
Another Kentucky prospect that could make sense with the Blazers is point guard TyTy Washington, who could fall into Simons’ old role from seasons past.
Kalbrosky projects him to go No. 12 to the Washington Wizards.
12. Washington Wizards: TyTy Washington
If the Wizards are going to march forward with Bradley Beal as their centerpiece, they should identify Kentucky’s TyTy Washington as a good backcourt partner.
Washington has a fairly low usage rate, which makes him an ideal fit next to a ball-dominant player like Beal. He also rarely turns the ball over, which is an appealing trait for any prospect, but especially impressive for a freshman.
I have a hard time seeing the Blazers select two guards in the lottery given the team’s projected frontcourt holes after Jusuf Nurkic’s contract expires this summer. But, if one of the Kentucky guards is unavailable, the other becomes a real possibility.
Instead of both Kentucky guards with the back-to-back picks, Kalbrosky mocks Arizona wing Bennedict Mathurin to Portland at No. 9.
9. Portland Trail Blazers: Bennedict Mathurin
If the season ended today, Portland would have two lottery picks in the 2022 NBA draft. If they swing for the fences with one pick, they could then target someone a bit safer like Bennedict Mathurin with their other. Mathurin, who we interviewed and profiled during his freshman season at Arizona, has all the makings of a prototypical 3-and-D wing.
Mathurin is going to make a team really happy, and he could be a crucial part of the Blazers’ rotation next season. He reminds me of a slightly taller Josh Hart, so that could make him obsolete for next year’s team, but the Blazers might not be in a position to draft based on need. They may just have to take the best player available, which in this case, is Mathurin.
Rip City, which Blazers prospects are you looking forward to watching for March Madness? Sound off in the comments below!