The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of the most discussed teams throughout this NBA offseason. There was a lot of buzz around Damian Lillard’s desire to add veteran help, followed by his trade request. As a result of the trade request, Portland is now expected to shift gears and transition into a rebuilding phase.
Even before this rollercoaster offseason, the Blazers had two young players, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons, who showed great promise. This summer, they’ve done an excellent job adding to that young core, mainly through the draft.
Here are the top four best moves the Blazers’ front office has made this offseason to start this new era.
Blazers’ best offseason move No. 4: Drafting Rayan Rupert at pick No. 43
Rayan Rupert was one of the youngest players in the 2023 NBA draft class at 19 years old. He played professionally overseas for five years, most recently for the New Zealand Breakers. Last season with the Breakers, Rupert averaged 6.6 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.8 steals on 36/25/70 shooting splits in 19.7 minutes per game.
Rupert is 6-foot-6 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, which means he has the physical traits and the potential to be a great defender who can guard multiple positions.
Amongst wings, Rupert had the second-longest wingspan in the draft class, behind only the Indiana Pacers’ Jarace Walker. For context, All-Defensive First Team forward Mikal Bridges has a 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Bridges could be a good comparison in terms of defensive upside. However, Rupert must bulk up to become a lockdown wing. He’s currently listed at 185 pounds, while Bridges is 209 pounds.
Given his combination of length, agility and quick hands, Rupert can guard ball handlers and wings. Portland has been missing his kind of defensive upside and versatility, particularly in its young core.
While he could be a better shooter, Rupert can contribute offensively by utilizing his length and athleticism. Portland’s plethora of athletic guards will be entertaining to watch run in transition with Rupert, although he might shrink the floor early in his career as teams dare him to shoot.
However, as one of the youngest players in the draft class, Rupert still has plenty of time to develop his shooting. Portland isn’t in win-now mode anyway, following the seemingly inevitable Lillard trade. They didn’t know that when selecting Rupert, but in retrospect, the pick makes even more sense.
Heading into the draft, Rupert was projected in many mock drafts as a late-first or early second-round pick. In ESPN’s draft projections, Rupert was the No. 17 overall prospect and referred to as a “potential lottery pick.”
The Blazers made a great selection, taking a flyer on a developmental project at No. 43. The value and upside certainly outweigh the risk associated with the draft capital spent.