So it was incredibly unfortunate when Nurkic went down with a non-displaced right leg fibular fracture in late-March, just when it seemed like Portland was finding a rhythm. While the team was able to find a way to stay afloat for the rest of the regular season, their postseason ended in quite a flash, predictably getting swept by the Golden State Warriors in the first round.
Although the team has big guys like Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh, Meyers Leonard and Al-Farouq Aminu, neither of them have found consistent success in their respective roles, which — in addition to the fact that the Blazers already have a solid backcourt rotation — is likely the reason why numerous NBA mock drafts have Portland picking up multiple bigs.
Here’s five of the top frontcourt prospects that Blazers fans should keep an eye on as the 2017 NBA Draft swiftly approaches.
He notably boasts a 7-foot-6 wingspan, which translates to a 9-foot-2 standing reach. In addition, he posted a 32.5-inch max vertical leap at the 2017 NBA Draft Combine.
According to Draft Express, not only is Anigbogu a solid defender on the low block, but he also shows potential in defending the pick-and-roll, which is a skill that has become increasingly more desired by NBA teams with the advent of the three-point shot:
“Another area where Anigbogu can impact the game defensively is in the pick and roll, a key for a big man in today’s NBA,” writes Derek Bodner. “He does a good job of zoning a pick and roll, dropping back to cut off a driving lane while having the quickness and length to recover and challenge a perimeter shot. He’s a little bit inconsistent in this regard, especially in his stance, but the potential is clearly there. Anigbogu is also a strong post defender, with the size and strength to hold his position and the length to contest shots.”
Coming off their fourth straight playoffs appearance, the Blazers are in the position to consider taking on a project like Anigbogu, who meets the team’s need for an athletic backup big man with great physical tools and defensive upside.
And with Nurkic acting as the main scoring threat inside, Portland can take its time developing Anigbogu’s offensive game, instead focusing on fine-tuning his skills protecting the rim.
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
T.J. Leaf || PF || 20 years old || 6’10”, 222 lbs.
NBADraft.net has T.J. Leaf slotted at the 15th pick, while Draft Express and Sports Illustrated has Leaf going at 23. Playing 35 games at UCLA, Leaf averaged 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.1 blocks in 29.9 minutes. He shot 61.7 percent from the field and 46.6 percent from behind the arc.
Leaf is the complete opposite of his teammate Ike Anigbogu, projecting to be a high-level offensive talent while lacking defensive upside. That’s not to say he’s a terrible defender, but his lack of strength and lateral quickness could prove problematic at the NBA level.
Nonetheless, Leaf could still end up being a stellar fit in Portland’s offense as a stretch-4, running and gunning alongside Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Considering Portland has the 15th pick, the 20th pick and the 26th pick, one of the best possible scenarios would have the Trail Blazers taking both Anigbogu AND Leaf, pairing a young, developing frontcourt with their core backcourt.
John Collins || PF || 19 years old || 6’10”, 225 lbs.
ESPN’s Chad Ford lists John Collins going at 15 to the Portland Trail Blazers in his latest NBA mock draft, while Draft Express lists Collins going at 18. In 33 games for Wake Forest, Collins averaged 19.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 26.6 minutes, shooting 62.4 percent.
Collins’ numbers per 40 minutes are off the charts: 27.9 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Primarily known for having his back to the basket, Collins would give the Blazers yet another inside presence with a talent for getting buckets.
The biggest knock on Collins is that he isn’t the jack-of-all-trades type that so many teams want in their small-ball center; but what Collins lacks in versatility, he surely makes up for being an exceptional, high-motor athlete.
According to HoopsStats.com, the Blazers bench averaged only 30.6 points, ranking 27th in the NBA. Collins would be an awesome fit in the Blazers’ second unit, providing the bench with some much-needed scoring.
Ivan Rabb || PF || 20 years old || 6’10”, 215 lbs.
Ivan Rabb is projected by Draft Express to go to the Portland Trail Blazers at 20. In 31 games for Cal, Rabb averaged 14.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.0 blocks in 32.6 minutes, shooting 48.4 percent from the field.
Long story short: In the age of basketball mixtapes, nearly every basketball player with access to Youtube has heard of Ivan Rabb. Projected as a possible lottery pick his freshman year, he unfortunately dropped down the list after failing to show much growth as a sophomore.
Despite this, teams simply can’t deny that Rabb is a basketball talent worthy of a first round pick. He remains a talented rebounder, evidenced by the fact he averaged a double-double in his sophomore year with Cal. Additionally, scouts are enamored with Rabb’s agility and overall feel for the game.
Rabb also holds a special connection to Damian Lillard being Oakland-natives, and Rabb feels like Lillard would be a “great mentor to have.“
“For all of the things Lydon was asked to do, his potential at the next level starts with his terrific spot up jump shooting ability. Knocking down 40% of his 245 attempts from beyond the arc in his two years with the Orange, Lydon is a dangerous set shooter with a high release point who has flashed impressive consistency well beyond the NCAA three-point line, and a knack for making the most of open opportunities from the perimeter in the half court. His ability to space the floor at 6’9 is certainly his most intriguing attribute from an NBA perspective.”
The Blazers ranked sixth in the NBA in three-point percentage this season, so they don’t exactly NEED to add another shooter to be a threat from outside. Nevertheless, Lydon’s unique combination of size, athleticism and shooting stroke is rather difficult to ignore.
Assuming the Portland Trail Blazers either traded their pick(s) or went with a draft-and-stash player with one or both of their previous selections, Lydon is certainly an option with Portland’s last pick.