No. 2: Jarace Walker, Houston
Along the same lines as Whitmore, if there is a prospect that Portland has fallen in love with and doesn’t want to risk losing in a trade down, taking them with the third overall pick could be controversial but ultimately the right move.
By traditional expectations, Jarace Walker doesn’t seem like he should be a star. He wasn’t the leading scorer for the Houston Cougars, instead serving as a defensive stopper and connective wing-forward for the team. Even without the gaudy scoring stats, however, Walker showed enough that consideration at No. 3 isn’t unwarranted:
Outside of Wembanyama, there isn’t a more impactful defender in this draft class. Walker is a lockdown perimeter defender, a phenomenal athlete, and a good enough shot-blocker to slide down to small-ball center in a pinch.
Adding Walker to the current Blazers core is one of the best ways for the team to get more of a defensive identity. While there isn’t a single player in the NBA that could transform Portland into a defensively-dominant team, drafting Walker would give the team its first positive defender that can also have a positive impact on the offense.