ESPN's Most Recent Mock Drafts Has The Blazers Selecting...

by Casey Holdahl
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The NCAA men's basketball season is well underway, which means NBA scouts are currently traversing the country in an effort to figure out who their respective teams should consider selecting in the 2018 Draft, scheduled to he held in June. There's a lot that can happen between now and then, from injuries to players deciding to stay in school, so opinions formed at this point in the NCAA season could very well change, and dramatically at that, before it's time to start making selections, but that's no reason not to pay attention to which directions teams might be leaning in the most important player acquisition event of the year.

Jonathan Givony, formerly of DraftExpress and now with ESPN, likely pays more attention to scouting collegiate and international draft prospects than anybody not drawing a paycheck from an NBA team. He's put out a new mock draft which takes team need into account, and with the 18th overall pick (he uses ESPN's BPI to predict draft order at this point), Givony has the Trail Blazers selecting freshman guard/forward Lonnie Walker IV out of Miami...

Lonnie Walker IV
Miami
Freshman
SG/SF

Height: 6-foot-4 | Weight: 206 | PER: 17.4

Portland's wing rotation has been highly unstable all season, as the team searches for consistent 3-point shooting and defensive versatility alongside its star guards.

Walker hasn't had a very productive freshman season, but the lack of depth at the wing position has kept his name in the first-round discussion as scouts wait to see if his performance stabilizes as the year moves on. His youth, strong frame, 6-foot-10½ wingspan and ability to shoot with his feet set or off the dribble make him a candidate to rise during the pre-draft process as teams search for upside and diamonds in the rough.

The 6-4, 192 pound freshman, who was ranked as the 17th best overall recruit of the 2017 class, is averaging 10.2 points on 43 percent shooting from the field, 36 percent shooting from three and 73 percent shooting from the line, 2.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 23.5 minutes per game for the 15-4 Hurricanes this season. Walker is coming off his most productive game of the season, a 78-75 overtime victory versus Louisville, in which he finished with 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting from the field and 4-of-9 shooting from three, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 40 minutes.

As for fit, it's a bit hard to figure how a player like Walker IV would fit into Portland's rotation. Givony rightly notes that the Trail Blazers are in need of help on the wing, but at 6-4, Walker IV might not have the size to defend NBA small forwards, even with a 6-10 wingspan. But when selecting a player in the later half of the first round, especially in a draft that Givony characterizes as not especially deep, you're not likely to find a player who checks off every box.