Why The Portland Trail Blazers Deserve An “A” On Their 2023 NBA Draft


We were all waiting for the Portland Trail Blazers to make a significant move on draft night in 2023 by trading their number three pick for an instant impact star at the request of Damian Lillard. However, Portland hung on to the pick and their others and stayed put in the draft. Let’s look at who they drafted and give them a final grade.

Round One, Pick 3 – Scoot Henderson

Ultimately, the Blazers selected Scoot Henderson as the third overall pick. A super fast and strong point guard, Henderson excels at pressuring the rim as a scorer, hitting mid-range jumpers, and making advanced passing reads in the pick-and-roll. While he needs improvement in his three-point shooting and defensive abilities, Henderson possesses the qualities of a highly sought-after hyper-athletic point guard in the NBA. The question surrounding Henderson’s selection revolves around Damian Lillard’s future, as reports suggest Lillard preferred the pick to be traded for a veteran star. Nevertheless, regardless of Lillard’s situation, Henderson is an exceptional asset as the third overall pick.

Henderson’s selection was made easier for the Blazers due to rumors that he might not be available leading up to the NBA Draft. The Charlotte Hornets had shown interest in him, even bringing him in for multiple workouts and considering him a potential pick over their eventual selection, Brandon Miller, who was chosen second overall. With Miller off the board, the Blazers were able to make a confident decision in selecting Henderson. Moreover, Henderson brings professional basketball experience, having played for two seasons with the G-League Ignite, where he became the youngest G-League player ever at the age of 17. Portland can be pleased with their choice of Scoot Henderson and the potential he brings to the team.

Round One, Pick 23 – Kris Murray

The selection of Kris Murray at No. 23 was another wise decision for the Blazers. Murray, the twin brother of last year’s fourth overall pick, Keegan Murray, had an impressive season at the University of Iowa following his brother’s departure to the NBA. He is projected to become a reliable 3-and-D wing player at the professional level. Although Kris Murray may not possess the same prolific shooting ability or athleticism as his brother, he is a low-risk pick who should have a long-lasting career as a rotational wing player.

Murray’s selection adds experience to the Blazers’ roster, having played three seasons at Iowa. The Blazers recognized the value of adding a player with more maturity and playing time compared to other rookies. Murray’s growth from minimal minutes to becoming a star at Iowa last season demonstrates his potential. He brings maturity and readiness to a Blazers team that aims to win in the present. Furthermore, Murray’s playing style aligns well with the Blazers’ current forwards. With Jerami Grant possibly resigning, he would be an excellent prototype to model his game after. Murray’s shooting ability for his size is his biggest strength, and Grant offers a similar upside, albeit with more athleticism. Developing behind Grant will allow Murray to refine his body and athleticism, preparing him for NBA basketball. While he may not reach stardom, Murray fulfills the Blazers’ needs and could become a valuable shooter like his brother Keegan. However, his ceiling may be lower than other prospects.

Round Two, Pick 43 – Ryan Rupert

At No. 43, the Blazers made an excellent choice by selecting Rayan Rupert. Standing 6’7″, Rupert operates as a guard due to his exceptional length and athleticism. Although he needs improvement on offense, his physical attributes, youth, and versatility give him limitless potential. At 19 years old, he can guard all five positions, handle the ball, and compete in the paint. Learning from Shaedon Sharpe and Matisse Thybulle, Rupert has the ideal environment to develop, and his offensive game is expected to flourish.

The value of selecting Rupert at No. 43 in the second round cannot be overstated. While his offensive skill set may not have been as strong as other prospects, his potential alone justified the pick. Rupert embodies the type of player that successful teams rely on—a versatile player who can make crucial defensive plays when the game is on the line. Although he needs to refine his shooting and ability to create his shot, he brings innate skills to the NBA that cannot be taught.

The Blazers were involved in multiple trade discussions, from getting Kristaps Porzigis from Washington to Bam Adebayo from Miami. I’m comfortable saying that the Blazers did “kick the tires” on multiple situations, so holding on to their picks and drafting the above players was their best bet. Just because the draft is over doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to sign players this offseason. Speaking strictly of the players they drafted, I would give the Blazers an A. Some scouts were down on Charlotte for selecting Brandon Miller, but I believe he would have been a better fit if he fell to the Blazers. However, the potential and athleticism of Scoot Henderson is a can’t-miss pick at number three. I am intrigued to see how Scoot plays with Dame, Anfernee, and Sharpe in the backcourt. If it comes down to it, the trade deadline may be the most important one in recent memory for the Trail Blazers.