3 rookies the Portland Trail Blazers may regret not taking

Jalen Johnson, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Rookies (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)
Jalen Johnson, Atlanta Hawks, Portland Trail Blazers, Rookies (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images) /
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The Portland Trail Blazers surprisingly added two rookies on NBA Draft night: Greg Brown III and Trendon Watford. The former was acquired via trade after sending off a future second-round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans for his rights. Watford was signed as an undrafted free agent following the draft.

Portland’s plan entering the offseason was to turn the team into a championship contender around Damian Lillard, in hopes of convincing him to stick around in Rip City for the rest of his prime. While rookies usually wouldn’t be tasked with such high expectations, acquiring talent on their first contracts is an underutilized way to flesh out a roster.

As usual, there was a decent amount of movement on draft night as teams swapped their picks for players or future capital. There were a handful of prospects that were easily attainable by the Trail Blazers, but ultimately wound up on other teams. These are some of the rookies that might make General Manager Neil Olshey regret not pulling the trigger.

Rookies the Portland Trail Blazers may already regret not trading for

Luka Garza, Detroit Pistons
Luka Garza, Detroit Pistons (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

1. Luka Garza

Luka Garza made a name for himself after leading the Iowa Hawkeyes to a second-seed tournament bid in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Garza led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks per game, helping to bring Iowa to a 22-9 record and a win in the round of 64.

Despite his incredible accomplishments with the Hawkeyes, his age and uninspiring athleticism allowed him to be taken with the 52nd pick by the Detroit Pistons.

So far in Summer League, Garza has shown that he has all of the tools to have a long NBA career. While he won’t have the same impact that he did in college, he can be an important contributor to a competitive team some day.

Through five games, he’s putting up 15 points, 10 rebounds, and a block per game. He’s also shooting 40 percent from deep on four attempts per contest. He’s displayed that he could be a great complementary piece on offense, while surviving on defense with his effort and game IQ.

Against the Orlando Magic, he put together an impressive 21 point-15 rebound game while shooting 50 percent from the floor. With Portland’s lack of depth in the front court, they could have used Garza’s blend of size and skill on their bench.

He’s showing to be an immense value at the 52nd pick and could be a player that the Trail Blazers could greatly regret not moving for, especially considering the minimal cost it would have taken to acquire him.