By STEVEN VAUGHAN,
All the talk has been about the third pick in the draft for the Portland Trail Blazers. And rightfully so.
But the Trail Blazers have another first-round draft pick this season. They acquired the New York Knicks first-round pick in the Josh Hart deal at last year’s trade deadline. That pick landed at No. 23 overall.
There is still a possibility the Blazers trade the 23rd pick, trade the 3rd pick, or trade both picks. We have covered who the Blazers should look to draft at three. I want to focus on some of the late-round prospects the Blazers can look at with the No. 23 selection. Here are 5 options I think would be great fits for Portland.
1. Jamie Jaquez Jr. – SF – UCLA
Jaquez is known very well in the Pac-12. He was the Pac-12 Player of the Year this past season and was also a second-team All-American. The main problem with Jaquez is that he is already 22 years old, which NBA front offices can view as a negative. The fact that he stayed in school for four seasons gives scouts plenty of time to evaluate his game and know what he could be.
Jaquez measured at 6’6″ at the NBA draft combine with a 6’9.5″ wingspan — an O.K., but not great, measurement. But for me, Jaquez is a baller. He is a guy that is going to do the “dirty work”. He’s going to make the right play. He’s going to improve his game to be able to play on this level. While he wasn’t great defensively at UCLA, I believe he is the type of player who will be more focused on defense when he gets to the NBA now that he has less responsibility on offense. We have seen guys like Dillon Brooks, for example, who may not be the most athletic or didn’t have the best measurables, adapt their game to the NBA and become successful. I think Jaquez is that kind of guy and a player the Blazers would love to have on the wing this next season.
2. Trayce Jackson-Davis – PF/C – Indiana
Trayce Jackson-Davis had a great career at Indiana. He averaged 20.9 points and 10.8 rebounds a game this past season and was a first-team All-American. Jackson-Davis measured at only 6’8-1/2 which can be a problem on the next level for a frontcourt player, but he also had a 7’1″ wingspan which will help combat the lack of height when it comes to interior play. He also measured with the third biggest hands at the draft combine.
Jackson-Davis is a tough-nosed player that will mix it up inside. He has also shown some ability to take a dribble and make the right pass when he is rolling off of a pick and roll. It’s not something you want him doing a lot, but just like Jusuf Nurkic, Jackson-Davis can make a play for others.
The Blazers need some size on the front line because of the injuries they always seem to incur and the lack of consistency from Nurkic. Trayce Jackson-Davis also has some ties to the organization being the son of former Blazers big man, Dale Davis, although he was raised by his mother and his stepfather.
3. Leonard Miller – PF – G League Ignite
Leonard Miller may not be available when the Blazers pick at #23. He’s a player who is rising up the draft boards because of his tremendous athleticism. Miller measured at 6’9.25″ with a 7’2″ wingspan — great size for a power forward. Miller would address the need for size on the Blazers. The 19-year-old averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds a game for the G League Ignite.
Miller is not a strong shooter at this point of his career which could be seen as a problem. But I’m never really concerned with a lack of shooting on the lower levels of competition. I was once told by a source within the Blazers scouting department that they always believe they can “teach” someone how to shoot. What really matters is how much the player cares and works on it. We have seen plenty of examples where players who once were not consistent three-point shooters become threats from beyond the arc. I believe Miller can figure it out.
If he’s available at No. 23, the Blazers can draft a player who was considerably productive and athletic at just 19 years of age. It’s the type of pick that could prove to be really good down the road whether they build with him, or use him as a young asset to trade.
4. Olivier-Maxence Prosper – SF – Marquette
The Blazers finished with the 28th-ranked defensive rating in the NBA a season ago. The defense needs to improve. But the biggest weakness of the Blazers defense is their on-ball defense. They don’t have a player who you can stick on a good scorer and feel good about it.
Olivier-Maxence Prosper could be that guy. Measuring 6’6-3/4″ with a 7’1″ wingspan, he showed the ability in college to guard power players, like Cam Whitmore from Villanova who will be a top-five pick, while also guarding shorter shooters like Jordan Hawkins, who will be a first-round pick out of UCONN.
There are some things Prosper needs to work on defensively. He gets above his feet too much which leaves him off balance and vulnerable to the step-back jump shot which in the NBA is an easy shot for the best players. But Prosper has shown the willingness to guard the best players and do it well. Marquette had the 43rd-best defense in the nation and Prosper was their best on-ball defender.
Offensively the shooting has improved and he has shown a good ability to cut to the hoop without the ball. I don’t think he will ever be a great offensive player. But if he can knock down the corner three and make cuts to the hoop from the corner, he can play on this level and do what he does best: Defend the basketball.
5. Kobe Brown – SF/PF – Missouri
Brown officially announced that he is staying in the NBA draft, and Portland could be a great spot for him. It may be considered a bit of a reach if Portland selected Brown with the 23rd pick, but not too crazy. Portland did bring him in for a workout. He measured 6’6-1/2″ with a 7’0-3/4″ wingspan.
Brown shot 45.5% from three-point range last season for the Tigers. He showed the ability to find a mismatch and take advantage of it on the offensive end. The problem sometimes is that he would play “bully ball” which is when a bigger player backs a smaller player down to the hoop. That can work in college — much harder to work in the NBA.
But Brown was a good finisher inside and is a solid defender. A strong body that can bang down low and is an improving perimeter defender, Brown will need to fine-tune some things on the NBA level. But he has the body and shows the effort to be successful.
The No. 3 overall pick is a major decision for general manager Joe Cronin and the Trail Blazers. But don’t forget about the second first-round pick at No. 23 that can also position the team for future success.