The Portland Trail Blazers have played better than expected through the first few weeks of the 2022-23 season, but this is still a rebuilding franchise that hopes to have a high lottery pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.
The Blazers nabbed Scoot Henderson (No. 3 overall) and Shaedon Sharpe (No. 7) in the past two drafts, respectively. Scoot is still finding his footing through the first five games of his career, but Sharpe is quickly becoming one of the best young players in the league and should find himself in the middle of the NBA’s Most Improved Player conversation at just 20 years old.
What other young, athletic, physically gifted player can general manager Joe Cronin and assistant GM Mike Schmitz unearth to add to Portland’s developing core? According to an early 2024 NBA mock draft, the answer to that question is a defensive eraser who possesses eerily similar traits to Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett.
Trail Blazers select French phenom Alex Sarr in 2024 NBA mock draft
Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report released a pre-college basketball season mock draft in which he had the Blazers picking at No. 2 and selecting C/F Alex Sarr, who’s playing this season with the Perth Wildcats of the NBL in Australia after spending two seasons with Overtime Elite.
Sarr is a 7-foot-1 center whose physical traits and performance in a pair of contests against the G League Ignite in September (there was another long, athletic French prospect who now plays for the San Antonio Spurs who similarly torched the Ignite last year) have him square in the conversation for the first overall pick in the 2024 draft.
One of Sarr’s comps thus far in the process is last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, Jaren Jackson Jr. of the Memphis Grizzlies, but digging up old footage of a high school-aged Garnett, it’s easy to see a comparison there as well.
The way Sarr moves for such a long, tall player who’s only 18 years old is impressive.
Sarr’s easy athleticism, quickness and explosion for a player 7-1 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan makes him an incredibly impactful defender. In the above highlights against some of this class’s other top prospects, he simply looks bigger, taller and faster than anyone else on the court. Everything looks easy for him, whether that’s defending on the perimeter, in the interior or finishing anything he catches near the basket.
It looks a lot like this:
Sarr needs polish offensively, but he’s already showing a 3-point shot and can drive by defenders off the dribble before using his length and explosion to finish inside. How he develops during his season with the Wildcats, especially offensively, will mean the difference between being the hands-down No. 1 pick this summer or a top-five, eye-of-the-beholder type of prospect.
There’s a lot of season left for the Blazers, who are already proving to be more competitive than most experts projected. Is Portland still bad enough to land a top-three pick, or will they win enough games to take themselves out of Sarr’s draft range?
Those are questions that need to be answered, but if the Trail Blazers are able to land a young big man who can defend the way Sarr does and put him next to Scoot and Sharpe, it’ll be a grand slam for the future of the franchise.