With most of the attention directed at what Portland will do with the No. 3 overall pick, the late first round pick can sometimes feel like a forgotten commodity. There has been speculation that Portland may trade the chip to the Chicago Bulls to get back the future lottery-protected first round pick Portland owes Chicago, thus freeing up the ability to easily trade future firsts. But if the Blazers decide to keep No. 23, what will General Manager Joe Cronin and Assistant General Manager Mike Schmitz dial up with the selection?
Whitehead, who entered Duke as a top-five recruit and consensus top-10 draft pick, had his freshman season greatly impacted by injuries after fracturing his foot in August and then sustaining a lower leg strain in January. In 28 games, Whitehead averaged 8.3 points and 2.4 rebounds, while shooting 42.4% on 3-pointers as he tried to regain his rhythm.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported in early May that Whitehead’s preseason foot surgery didn’t heal properly and required a second procedure this off-season, which further hurt his draft stock. Despite the injury concerns, CBS Sports’ Parrish wrote Whitehead’s potential at 6-foot-7 makes him worthy of a flier with the No. 23 pick.
Whitehead had an underwhelming one season at Duke, where he only averaged 8.3 points per game. But he did shoot 42.4% from 3-point range as a 6-7 wing, and at this point in the draft he’s worth a flyer even though he’s expected to soon have another procedure performed on his injured right foot.
Boon concurred with Parish’s assessment, citing injury concerns, but still slotting Whitehead in at No. 23 to the Blazers in his latest mock draft.
Whitehead had a topsy-turvy season at Duke and didn’t quite live up to expectations as a five-star, consensus top-five recruit, in part because of injuries and inconsistencies that resulted from that. ESPN reported that his preseason right foot injury did not heal properly and requires a follow-up procedure, so teams will want to make sure his medicals check out.
The high-risk, high-reward selection of Whitehead based on potential would line up with recent Portland draft day decisions. Last season, the Blazers drafted 19-year-old Shaedon Sharpe with the No. 7 pick, despite limited game tape and concerns about Sharpe not playing a single minute in college. In 2019, the Blazers selected 19-year-old Nassir Little with the No. 25 pick, after Little, a top-five high school prospect, fell out of the Draft Lottery due to an underwhelming freshman season at North Carolina. A year before the Little selection, Portland once again took a flier on potential in 2018 by selecting 19-year-old Anfernee Simons with the No. 24 pick.
Wojnarowski’s report said Whitehead, who turns 19 in August, would be ready to play by the start of the NBA regular season.