Blazers draft: 4 March Madness prospects Trail Blazers should target

Jarace Walker, Houston Cougars (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)
Jarace Walker, Houston Cougars (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images) /
1 of 4

With March Madness underway, the Portland Trail Blazers front office and fans are scouting the talented athletes that could be available in the 2023 NBA Draft. While watching March Madness is highly entertaining, it’s also an opportunity to see players on the big stage that NBA fans might not have seen before.

It can be an excellent time to evaluate players’ skill sets and visualize how they would fit in with roster needs at the next level.

Before diving into players who could mesh well with the Blazers’ roster, it’s important to recap their draft pick situation.

Portland acquired a lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick in the Josh Hart trade with the Knicks. If the Knicks fail to make the playoffs, they will keep that pick and give the Blazers four future second-round picks instead.

Meanwhile, the Blazers sent their 2023 first-round pick to the Bulls in the three-way deal that landed them Larry Nance Jr. That pick is also lottery-protected and will roll over to next season if Portland misses the playoffs.

Given how the Blazers and Knicks have been playing lately, there’s a likely best-case scenario in which Portland ends up with two first-round picks in this year’s draft. Retaining their draft pick would be a bittersweet ending for a relatively disappointing season for the Blazers.

This article will evaluate March Madness prospects that could be a good value and roster fit for the Blazers. The first two players listed would be ideal options with the Blazers’ pick earlier in the first round, and the last two correspond with the Knicks’ pick later in the first round.

Prospect No. 1 – Jarace Walker, F, Houston

Jarace Walker is a 6-foot-8 freshman who is a great athlete and very agile for his 240-pound frame. Many 6-8 players have been labeled “tweeners” going into the NBA because they relied too much on their size in college. Their game didn’t transition as well to the NBA.

Walker shouldn’t have that problem, as he is solid as both an athlete that can guard out on the perimeter and as a shooter that can stretch the floor.

This pick makes a ton of sense for the Blazers, especially given the contract situations of their current forwards on the roster, the most notable of which is Jerami Grant, who is an unrestricted free agent. Newly acquired wings Cam Reddish and Matisse Thybulle are both restricted free agents this offseason, too.

Someone like Walker would be great insurance on the roster if the team can’t get these deals done.

If Portland retains its key forwards, Walker could also fit in well alongside them, given his ability to stretch the floor. Walker shot 34 percent from three this season.

However, he needs to improve his free throw shooting, as he shot 64 percent from the line.

Still, Walker is only 19 years old and has room to grow. He has the size, athleticism, and feel for the game to be impactful on a team like Portland.

Walker is a big reason Houston has a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and his skillset should translate well to the NBA. If the Blazers retain their lottery pick, Walker could be someone to keep an eye on.