Now that the NBA’s regular season is officially well in the books and the Damian Lillard trade speculation is ramping up, it’s time for a new Blazers Big Board.
Portland successfully tanked its way to the fifth-best lottery odds. Whether or not that pick will remain with the Trail Blazers is in question at the moment, depending on what general manager Joe Cronin decides to do about the Dame situation.
Does he use the team’s lottery pick as part of a trade to land another superstar? Or does he trade Lillard and it just becomes a stable of other draft assets to build for the future?
The Blazers have three picks in 2023 – its own aforementioned lottery pick, the 23rd overall pick they got from the New York Knicks in the Josh Hart trade, and the 44th overall pick, a selection they acquired from the Atlanta Hawks.
To reiterate, this isn’t a best player available list. It’s a list based on what the Blazers need, the top piece of the big board Cronin should have in the war room on draft night.
With a Lillard trade becoming increasingly plausible since Big Board 1.0, the need for a high-ceiling guard has joined size, defense, rebounding, and wing depth as offseason priorities for Portland. Version 2.0 reflects that.
With that said, here are the prospects, ranked 10 to 1, who should top the Blazers’ list heading toward the draft (as of April 21).
A few prospects who just missed the top 10 but might appear here as the draft process goes on or could be available when Portland’s second pick comes up at 23 (in no particular order):
Dereck Lively II, Duke; Noah Clowney, Alabama; Rayan Rupert, New Zealand Breakers; Kris Murray, Iowa; Sidy Cissoko, G League Ignite; Jett Howard, Michigan; Dariq Whitehead, Duke; G.G. Jackson, South Carolina; James Nnaji, Barcelona; Colby Jones, Xavier
10. Keyonte George, Baylor
George is not quite an Anfernee Simons clone, but close, if Simons had a skill set similar to what he does now when he was 19. The Baylor star proved to be a multi-level, creative scoring threat in his one season in college but has the upside to become a more complete player.
George averaged 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists while shooting 34 percent from three on almost 7 attempts per game. His tape looks more explosive than his numbers, though.
He can create space to get his own shot off from almost any area of the floor, regardless of who the defender is and where they are. That includes step-backs, drives to the basket, and threes.
He’s a good pick-and-roll player which, if Lillard does get traded, would come in handy in not leaving Simons all alone as the Blazers only high-level facilitator.
George is stronger than Ant, but not quite as fluid or athletic. He’s 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, though, which would leave Portland with another small-ish guard for opposing offenses to target.