The pick at No. 5: Jarace Walker, Houston Cougars
Around the fifth pick is when the 2023 draft class starts to get murkier. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any more star prospects to draft; quite the contrary. Instead, there are a number of talented prospects with minor warts who will be selected more because of fit than overwhelming talent.
In the NBA, there are few, if any, non-centers who can be defensive game-changers. Walker is the rare non-center draft prospect who has just that sort of ceiling. He’s a physical champion with great athletic gifts, indomitable strength, and some of the best defensive instincts in recent memory.
Adding him to a weaker defensive lineup like Portland’s wouldn’t transform the team into an elite defensive team overnight, but he’d immediately be the team’s best defender and someone who could consistently frazzle opposing offenses into bad possessions:
It would still be on the team to find a better center to pair with Walker to form an actual backbone of a dominant defense, but adding a stud defensive prospect who also has some promising shooting and decision-making flashes is still a great place to start when trying to completely rebuild an NBA defense.
Walker would have the touches to make plays from the short roll, finish off cuts to the rim, and cause a frenzy on the other end to create easy offense for the team. That type of player is exactly what Portland needs around Dame, and it would raise the ceiling of the entire team.