With about 72 hours to go until Portland finds out where its 2023 NBA Draft Lottery selection will fall, it’s time for Blazers Big Board 3.0: The Final Pre-Lottery Edition.
The team successfully tanked its way to this year’s fifth-best odds, and as we’ve seen before, the Blazers have had some previous lottery luck under similar circumstances. But what happens on Tuesday night will help paint a much clearer picture for general manager Joe Cronin and the rest of the front office.
Should the ping pong balls bounce Portland’s way and the Blazers land the No. 1 overall pick in a draft that features a generational prospect at the top, Cronin’s summer plans will quickly crystalize.
If that selection doesn’t land at the very top, will Portland use it as part of a trade package to acquire another superstar and help Damian Lillard push for a title as a Blazer? Or does it become a huge piece of a complete rebuild in the event Lillard is traded?
The Blazers have three picks in 2023 – its own aforementioned lottery pick, the 23rd overall pick they received from the New York Knicks in the Josh Hart trade, and the 44th overall pick, a second-round selection by way of the Atlanta Hawks.
As was the case with Big Boards 1.0 and 2.0, 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.
Whether Dame is dealt or not, Portland’s needs this offseason include size, defense, rebounding, backcourt depth, and wing depth. Version 3.0 reflects those needs.
Here are the prospects, ranked 10 to 1, who should top the Blazers’ list heading toward the draft (as of May 14).
A few prospects who 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 No. 23 (in no particular order):
Keyonte George, Baylor; 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. Dereck Lively II, Duke
Big Board 2.0 rank – NR
Lively II returns to the 10th spot in Big Board 3.0 after being dropped off version 2.0.
A five-star recruit and significant get for the Blue Devils out of high school, Lively II underwhelmed until late in his freshman campaign. He finished the season with averages of 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. Not staggering numbers, and certainly not ones you’d expect from a top-10 pick.
However, the 19-year-old has untapped upside on both ends of the floor.
Lively II’s solidly built at 7-foot-1, 230 pounds, and has a 7-7 wingspan. He has great athleticism and soft hands, which make him an ideal rim-runner in pick-and-roll situations. He is quick to turn defense into offense as well, often sprinting down the court and heading straight for the rim, where those same skills come into play.
His immediate impact would come on the defensive end, where his athleticism, length, and agility make him an above-average rim protector right now, and potentially an elite one. He can help on a switch and recover quickly to fly in for blocks near the basket.
Unlike some of the other bigs in this class, though, Lively II shows real potential as a scorer and playmaker. He could become a threat from deep, or at least enough of a threat to keep defenses honest and unclog the paint.