Blazers should pursue ideal big man after Thunder make roster blunder

Usman Garuba, Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Usman Garuba, Houston Rockets (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers are in need of big men, especially young ones who can provide defense, rebounding and energy. One who fits that exact bill is now available as a free agent after being released by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

OKC had a major roster crunch and needed to do some trimming. The Thunder also released promising point guard TyTy Washington (who wouldn’t be a bad option for Portland to take a flier on, either), which gets the team down to the maximum 21 training camp players.

Oklahoma City’s loss, though, could be Portland’s gain.

The Trail Blazers should consider signing big man Usman Garuba

There’s always room in the NBA for players who provide size and defensive versatility – there’s even more room in Portland for a player who could provide either, let alone both.

Usman Garuba was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 23rd overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. He vacillated between Houston and the G League during his first two seasons, never quite finding his footing in the NBA.

Over 99 games in the big show, he has career averages of 2.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in a little more than 12 minutes per game.

Garuba is still only 21, though, and has a legitimate pedigree to be a useful rotation big. There’s a reason he was mocked as a late-lottery or mid-first-round pick heading into the 2021 draft.

At 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds with a 7-2 wingspan, the former Real Madrid forward has the size to play either the four or five in the NBA. His elite defensive energy and IQ got him on the floor with the Spanish powerhouse at age 17. He knows where to go and what to do and does it at maximum effort at all times.

He’s big and long enough to battle in the post, yet smart and agile enough to switch onto smaller players and hedge and recover.

Offensively, he’ll likely be limited to put-backs and finishes at the rim, and even that can be difficult at times because of his lack of real athleticism or vertical, but the Blazers don’t need Garuba to score – they need him to play defense, rebound and provide depth in the front court, all things the Spain native can do.

A young, skilled and apparently hungry player who fits a need in Portland is worth taking a shot on.

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