Blazers free agency need No. 2: Two-way forwards
Portland did well in addressing its need for defensive-minded wings in this year’s draft, specifically with its later selections. At No. 23, the Blazers picked Kris Murray from Iowa, a 22-year-old player known for his versatility and ability to contribute immediately. Last season, Murray earned the distinction of Third-team All-American during his junior year.
At No. 43, Portland selected Rayan Rupert, a 6-foot-6 French prospect with an impressive 7-foot-3 wingspan. At 19 years old, Rupert is seen as a developmental project who requires patience to contribute at the NBA level. He’s still a great late flier with much potential and fits a positional need.
Regarding their own players, the Blazers should prioritize retaining unrestricted free agent Jerami Grant and restricted free agent Matisse Thybulle, who has been extended a qualifying offer. Both fill a need for the Blazers – Grant provides length and is a capable secondary scorer alongside Lillard, while Thybulle is a lockdown defender and one of the best wing defenders in the NBA.
In addition to the draft and retaining its own players, Portland still needs to add more two-way wings through free agency. The headliner targets that fit the two-way mold include Green, Harrison Barnes, and Dillon Brooks. Some cheaper alternatives include Kelly Oubre Jr., Jalen McDaniels, Torrey Craig, Jae Crowder, and Josh Okogie.
The NBA has many talented wings, especially in the Western Conference. If Portland wants to make a deep run in the playoffs, they’ll likely have to get past some combination of Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard/Paul George, or Brandon Ingram/Zion Williamson.
Thybulle is elite as a lockdown defender but is also one dimensional and would be better served as a role player. If the Blazers want to be contenders, they need a more well-rounded two-way forward to start alongside Grant, assuming they can retain him.