Teams should be locking down prospect rankings and finalizing their boards as this year’s NBA draft is only days away. General Manger Joe Cronin’s plan for the Blazers 2023 NBA Draft Big Board is assuredly no different.
The biggest lingering question facing Cronin right now is whether Portland should use its third overall selection as part of a trade package to acquire another superstar to help Damian Lillard push for a title as a Blazer, or simply choose a high-level prospect to add to the the team’s current core.
Option C, trading Dame and completely resetting Portland’s roster, seems to be a hard pass.
The Blazers have three picks in this year’s draft – Nos. 3, 23, and 43. As was the case with Big Boards 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, 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.
Portland’s most significant needs this offseason include size, defense, rebounding, backcourt depth, and wing depth. These final pre-draft rankings reflect those needs.
Here are the prospects, ranked 10 to 1, who should top the Blazers’ list on draft night.
10. Dereck Lively II, C, Duke
Big Board 3.0 rank: 10
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. Certainly not staggering numbers, but 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 skills can come into play.
His immediate impact would come on the defensive end, where his athleticism, length, and agility make him an excellent rim protector already – as evidenced by his 2.4 blocks last year at Duke – and potentially an elite one. He can hedge on the perimeter and recover quickly enough to fly in and affect shots 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 in time, or at least enough of a threat to keep defenses honest and unclog the paint.