A lot of the week leading up to the NBA Draft has been dredged in talk surrounding the future of Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, but the team has potentially two first-round picks to make decisions about.
In Kevin O’Connor’s latest mock draft for The Ringer, the Blazers are set to take Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 pick.
NBA executives are split on whether the Blazers will move Damian Lillard, who remains involved in everything the Blazers’ front office is doing right now. The team genuinely wants to add ready-made talent. The Blazers have had talks with the Pelicans about Zion Williamson, which has been widely reported at this point. I’ve also heard that they inquired with the Wizards about Bradley Beal, though he only wanted to go to Phoenix. If Lillard is dealt, the Heat and Nets are on his short list. But if this pick is moved, it’s more likely it’ll be something involving Henderson since he’s the prospect teams are offering proven players to move up for.
It’s hard to see Henderson being the pick for the Blazers and he stays there. It seems as if the New Orleans Pelicans have a desire to trade up for Henderson, but the obstacle is the Charlotte Hornets at No. 2. If they want Henderson and take him at No. 2, then a potential trade is off. However, if Henderson is on the board at No. 3 and the Pelicans are offering Zion Williamson for him, it may be hard for the Blazers to pass up.
With the No. 23 pick, the Blazers also go along a nontraditional path, taking Barcelona center James Nnaji.
Nnaji would provide the type of defensive versatility and rim rolling that Jusuf Nurkic did. Though they’re different types of centers, Nnaji would pair well with Henderson’s own downhill style for the years to come.
Nnaji is a developmental project who will likely spend time in the G League next season for whoever takes him. However, he has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the NBA, which is why he has shot up draft boards in the last few weeks.
These picks signal a true Blazers rebuild, which isn’t Portland’s desired path. However, if a deal doesn’t come about that matches the worth of these picks, it may become the only direction the Blazers can go in.