Why Stephon Castle is the perfect prospect to fast-track Trail Blazers' rebuild

The UConn star just proved he's Portland's missing piece.
Stephon Castle, Connecticut Huskies
Stephon Castle, Connecticut Huskies / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

UConn freshman Stephon Castle just showed why he's a sure-fire lottery pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. He scored a team-high 21 points in the Huskies' Final Four win over Alabama and was far and away the best player on the floor in a game that featured multiple pro prospects.

He also proved why he's the missing piece that can unlock the Trail Blazers' rebuilding roster. Why he's the perfect Swiss Army knife to unleash Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, Deandre Ayton and the rest of Portland's core. How he can fast-track Rip City's rebuild and move the franchise from bottom-feeder to postseason contender sooner rather than later.

4 Reasons why Stephon Castle is a dream fit for the Trail Blazers

Castle's best attributes as a player fit Portland's young roster like a glove and all of them were on display in Connecticut's win over Alabama.

Backcourt size

The Huskies' freshman star is all of the 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds he's listed at and he uses it to his advantage. He knocked down a pair of open threes early when the Crimson Tide sagged off him, but as the game went on, he showed how he can use that size to drive straight into the chest of defenders and finish at the rim.

The Blazers don't have a guard like that on their roster. Henderson may be the closest in terms of brute strength, but he's 6-foot-2 and has been one of the worst finishers in the NBA this season. Simons is 6-3 but only 190 pounds. Sharpe is 6-5 and 205, but he's a finesse finisher at the rim.

Castle is bigger and stronger than any of Portland's guards. That's something the Blazers have been searching for since the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum days.


Despite his age, Castle is one of the best perimeter defenders in college basketball. He has a non-stop motor on that end of the floor and his strength allows him to fight through screens and stay glued to his man. He's a versatile defender who uses his size and quickness. He can guard one through three and hang with small-ball fours on occasion.

He's good on-ball and off-ball. He's an excellent high-effort rebounder who can finish possessions and immediately turn defense into offense.

Again, the Trail Blazers lack a player with Castle's size, strength and versatility as a defender. He would cover for Portland's diminutiveness in the backcourt and could play with Scoot or Simons or alongside both as a third guard.

Offensive versatility

Castle's full offensive bag was on display against Alabama. He took defenders off the bounce and bullied them to the rim. He countered that by pulling up short and showing a soft touch on floaters. He backed down smaller defenders in the post. He made smart cuts off the ball. He even showed his skill as a pick-and-roll ball handler, something he doesn't get to do much with the Huskies.

His offensive game would translate in any lineup Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups wants to put on the floor.

Willingness to play multiple roles

The fact that a freshman can crack the starting lineup of the most dominant team in college basketball and earn the trust of a coach like Dan Hurley is a testament not only to Castle's versatility but also his commitment to doing whatever it takes to win.

He was a five-star recruit and McDonald's All-American. He proved against the Tide that he can take over a game as a No. 1 offensive option, but most often he's deferred to his more experienced teammates, simply finding a way to fit in. He could have gone to any school in the country and done what he did against Alabama, but he chose UConn because the Huskies had a chance to win a championship.

"I never won anything in high school. I never won a state championship. So I wanted to come here and be coached by a winner. I wanted to be a winner," Castle said via The Athletic (subscription required).

He's shown a willingness to do anything required of him. He's sat back and let his teammates cook while defending the opposing team's best scorer. He's rebounded when he's needed to. He's moved the ball and been a connector on offense, or a playmaker when that's been asked of him. And he just showed he can score when his team needs him to do that, too.


That unselfishness would translate anywhere Castle goes, but the winning mentality he's developed at UConn would bring something no other player on Portland's roster has. That alone would accelerate the Trail Blazers' rebuild.