With the NBA Draft Lottery a week away, the Portland Trail Blazers will soon have either a new crown jewel prospect to add to their team or a “needle-mover” they acquire in a trade. Even with the roster about to go through a major renovation, there are a few Blazers still on the roster that are in line for a more significant role next year.
It’s unclear whether Portland will push all of its chips in and try to contend with Damian Lillard, or whether they will rebuild with the trade package from dealing Lillard. Still, the team has a young, shallow roster outside of the starting lineup.
That leaves a number of potential roles for players to step into and expand their games. Here, we’ll look at four Blazers who are best set up to play those more important roles on the team.
Bigger Role Candidate #1: Ibou Badji
The least-heralded player of these four, Ibou Badji didn’t spend much time with the Blazers this season, but he figures to have a more prominent role once he gets healthy. Badji initially went undrafted in the 2022 NBA Draft, but after a quick stint with the Wisconsin Herd, Portland signed him to a two-way contract.
Badji is a young, athletic center hailing from Dakar, Senegal, who brings a punchy mix of dunking, finishing, and shot-blocking to the floor. He has great length to contest attempts at the rim, finish sky-high lobs, and can run the floor with ease, which makes him the type of center the Blazers need to retool the position:
Once Badji returns from his knee surgery, he won’t feature heavily in the Blazers’ rotation, as he’ll likely have to fight for the backup center role at best. Earning even the third center role, however, would be a major feather in Badji’s cap, as he’d be back on track to carving out a defined role as a rim-running big on a team that desperately needs one.
That bigger role would allow him to still work on his game but get valuable NBA minutes.