The Portland Trail Blazers are in rebuilding mode now that a Damian Lillard trade is seemingly inevitable. While they could still have a surprising 2023-24 NBA season, many fans are more excited about the Blazers’ future as they look to rebuild around Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons.
This article delves into four 2024 NBA Draft prospects that would complement those emerging stars well for Portland in terms of positional need and play style.
Blazers 2024 NBA Draft prospect No. 1: Aday Mara, center, UCLA (Spain)
At 7-foot-3 and 245 pounds, UCLA’s Aday Mara is a towering center with a unique skill set that sets him apart from other big men potentially entering the 2024 NBA Draft. Mara’s standout quality is his exceptional passing. His offensive skill set is reminiscent of Alperen Sengun or Pau Gasol with his ability to anticipate plays and read defenses.
As he continues refining his post-game, Mara will be a challenging offensive cover. Defenses won’t be able to help without him finding an open man. Mara’s passing will add another dimension to a team’s offense and is a skill set that will instantly translate to the NBA level.
Mara also has the potential to be a great two-way player in the NBA due to his size, rebounding and shot-altering ability. His exceptional basketball IQ also applies to the defensive side of the ball – Mara already has a good understanding of defensive positioning and timing, making him a formidable rim protector and help defender.
As of now, he’s projected to be a borderline top-five pick in the 2024 draft.
Mara’s potential fit with the Blazers
Mara’s skill set fits exceptionally well with the Blazers’ promising talent. From a positional standpoint, the center position is undoubtedly a need for Portland.
Jusuf Nurkic is a serviceable starting center, but he is also 29 and doesn’t fit with the Blazers’ new timeline. Outside of Nurkic, they also need more depth following the departures of Drew Eubanks and Trendon Watford.
From a talent perspective, Mara’s unselfish play and passing ability also fit with Portland’s athletic guards and complement the team’s strengths. His ability to find Henderson and Sharpe on cuts would up new avenues for creative offensive sets.
One area Mara will need to improve to complement the Blazers’ roster perfectly is his ability to be a versatile defender. Blazers fans have gone through the Nurkic era of defense and deserve someone better equipped to be a modern-day center.
The evolving landscape of NBA centers is more of a positionless “unicorn” style of basketball – particularly in the Western Conference, with players including Victor Wembanyama, Chet Holmgren and Sengun. These centers are all on teams in a rebuilding process similar to the Blazers’, meaning they could be Western Conference contenders on the same future timeline.
Portland must have a unique big to compete with the other up-and-coming Western Conference teams. Mara could be the missing piece.