Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin has a high lottery pick that holds the fifth-best odds at becoming the No. 1 overall selection in the 2023 NBA Draft. Heading into May, Cronin’s goal with that pick is to find a willing trade partner for a blockbuster swap that would bring a superstar to Portland to pair with Damian Lillard.
With Lillard, and potentially a player like Jaylen Brown, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, or Mikal Bridges in the fold, Dame and the Blazers would theoretically have a shot to make a deep playoff run and push for an NBA championship.
There’s also a scenario in which Cronin can’t find a trade like that to his liking, and he and Lillard decide a parting of the ways is best for both sides. In that case, Portland’s GM would pivot to getting as significant a return as he can for arguably the best player in franchise history.
If that’s the case, a full rebuild around Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, and whatever draft capital the Blazers have would be the play. If that’s how the offseason goes, Portland will have a potentially top-five pick to play with, the pick Cronin acquired from the New York Knicks at the trade deadline (23rd overall), a second-round pick at 43 overall, and a haul of future picks to use to move around the board.
In that scenario, there’s no point in drafting a player who’s ready to contribute right away. A swing at a high-upside prospect would be the way to go, similar to what Portland did with Sharpe in the 2022 draft. The Blazers’ timeline for competing would get pushed way back, so they might as well shoot their shot on a boom-or-bust player with superstar potential.
If this is how things play out heading into draft night on June 22, here are four such players Cronin could go big or go home on who could become another foundational piece for the franchise – or flame out completely – that Portland can afford to take a risk on.
GG Jackson, South Carolina
Jackson was one of the highest-rated recruits in the 2022 class. After committing to North Carolina, he decommitted to re-classify from the 2023 class – where he was the No. 1 overall prospect – and fast-track his career as a potential lottery pick.
Still, the South Carolina native was the top-ranked power forward in 2022 and the sixth-overall player nationally. He arrived to the Gamecocks as a go-to option offensively who was supposed to help the program get over the hump and compete in the NCAA Tournament.
None of that came to fruition, as Jackson struggled both on the court and off. As a player, his shot selection was terrible. Was that a result of SC’s lack of offensive options, or an immature player trying to get his own with no desire to get his teammates involved?
He’s not a great passer, either, even if he did try and facilitate. He’s an inefficient shooter who shot 38 percent from the floor and 32 percent from three. He averaged 2.7 turnovers and just 0.8 assists.
From a pure skill standpoint, though, Jackson is a marvel. He’s already 6-9, 215 pounds as the youngest player in the draft. He can cut, crash the offensive glass, and puts in effort on offense. His mechanics say he should become a knockdown shooter off the catch, as well as a shot-maker off the bounce, and is already a good finisher at the rim.
Jackson may be the most boom-or-bust prospect in this entire class.