2019 Mock Draft Roundup: With The 25th Pick, The Trail Blazers Select...
It might not really feel like it, but we're just a little over two weeks away from the 2019 NBA Draft, which is scheduled to take place June 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Between the lack of debate regarding the top prospects -- it's all but assured that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett with be selected with the first, second and third picks, respectively -- the dearth of talent in this class and/or the fact that the Trail Blazers have hosted just one predraft workout -- the trend is moving toward group workouts put together by agents anyway -- there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of buzz in Rip City for the upcoming event.
Though maybe that's a good thing. After making it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in nearly 20 years, sights understandably turn toward how the Trail Blazers can improve upon what they did during the 2018-19 season, and most rightfully assume that a rookie selected with the 25th pick isn't where Portland is likely to find the help they'll need next season.
But with no real cap space to speak of -- the Trail Blazers will have only one of the midlevel exceptions to sign free agents this offseason -- the draft is one of the few options Portland has to bolster a roster that will all but certainly look significantly different, particularly in terms of the bench, than the team that was swept by the Warriors in the conference finals.
So with that in mind, here are the first roundup of 2019 NBA mock drafts. At this point, it looks as though the picks are being made due to positional needs rather than taking the "best player available," though when picking late in the first round in a average-to-bad class, there's merits to that approach.
• Jonathan Givony at ESPN has the Trai Blazers selecting Stanford forward KZ Okpala with the 25th overall pick...
Height: 6-foot-10 | Weight: 210
Portland doesn't have much depth at the forward spots, with Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless both entering the final years of their contract and Al-Farouq Aminu already a free agent.
Okpala had a late start to basketball, and he is raw in terms of his strength and understanding of the game. However, his physical tools are impressive, and the flashes he has shown as a slasher, defender and perimeter shooter make him worth a long-term investment.
Okpala averaged 16.8 points on 46 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent shooting from three, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 steals for the Cardinal during his sophomore season.
• Gary Parish of CBS Sports has the Trail Blazers selecting Tennessee power forward Grant Williams with their lone pick in the 2019 Draft...
Grant Williams | Tennessee | Jr | PF | 6-7 | 240
Williams is a two-time SEC Player of the Year who averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.9 minutes per game this season. The CBS Sports First Team All-American was so consistently productive that NBA scouts who previously questioned whether what he does will translate to the next level are starting to wonder why it won't. It's true that the 6-7 forward is neither a great athlete nor a serious threat from the perimeter. But Williams really knows how to play. And, more and more often, players who are described that way are carving out roles for themselves in the NBA. Perhaps Williams can be the next.
In his third season with the Volunteers, Williams averaged 18.8 points on 57 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent shooting from three, 7.5 rebounds. 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.1 steals in 37 games, all starts.
• Kyle Boone, also at CBS Sports, also has the Trail Blazers selecting Tennessee's Grant Williams with the 25th pick in his most recent mock draft posted on May 20...
Portland's roster as currently constructed is Western Conference Finals good, but with a tweak or two, can it be NBA Finals good? Adding the No. 25 pick alone isn't likely enough -- but it's a solid start if Williams is on the board. He's a tough, physically imposing forward who won consecutive SEC Player of the Year honors in his final two seasons. He can play power forward or, potentially, center in small-ball lineups. Think a slightly taller, slightly heavier PJ Tucker with a splash of playmaking.
• Reid Forgrave rounds out the trio of mock drafts at CBS Sports and has the Trail Blazers selecting Iowa State forward Talen Horton-Tucker...
Small for his position ? whatever position that is ? but it ought not matter in the increasingly positionless NBA. Horton-Tucker can do a little bit of everything on the court, a Swiss Army knife that's filled with toughness, and is one of the most switchy, versatile players in this draft. Horton-Tucker, who attended the same Chicago high school as Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker, is a winner. He could have a P.J. Tucker-like impact on a team.
Listed at 6-3, 238 pounds, Horton-Tucker averaged 11.8 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent shooting from three, 4.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals in his freshman season with the Cyclones.
• Jeremy Woo at Sports Illustrated/The Crossover, in a mock draft posted on May 20, has the Trail Blazers selecting Kentucky freshman guard/forward Keldon Johnson...
Keldon Johnson, G/F, Kentucky
Height: 6'6" | Weight: 215 | Freshman
Johnson’s stock dropped a bit as his limitations became evident at Kentucky, but he does enough offensively and brings strong enough intangibles to appeal to a playoff team as a future contributor. His competitive approach is easy to appreciate, and he should be able to shoot and defend enough to find a niche. Johnson has always been wired as a scorer, and may have to rein in some old habits to make it work. He’d be a good supporting piece for Portland.
Johnson averaged 13.5 points on 46 percent shooting from the field and 38 percent shooting from three, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.7 minutes per game during his freshman season at Kentucky.
• Sam Vecenie at The Athletic, in his latest mock draft posted on May 14, also has the Trail Blazers selecting Stanford forward KZ Okpala with the 25th pick...
6-9 forward, sophomore, Stanford
Trail Blazers’ general manager Neil Olshey is not a big believer that you can get immediate help in the draft that can provide a boost to a contending team. I don’t necessarily agree with such a thought process — over the last few years, we’ve seen plenty of rookies make an impact as a role player in the playoffs — but it’s certainly the way he thinks about things. Okpala is the kind of high-upside player the Blazers tend to value, though. Best of all, he fits a position of need as a combo forward who can create off the dribble, knock down shots, and potentially even become useful defensively one day. The Stanford product started out the season as a potential lottery pick, dominating in the first two months of the season and knocking down 45 percent of his 3s. The shooting was always a bit unsustainable, but it ended up being that his overall offensive game ended up tanking a bit later in the season, too. From February 7 onward, Okpala averaged just 14 points a night while shooting under 40 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3. While that didn’t leave a great taste in evaluators’ mouths, I still think Okpala did enough to show that he’s a project worth taking on. Any time you can get a 6-9 forward with a 7-2 wingspan, legitimate body control, the ability to knock down shots, and then create plays off the dribble, I think you have to take that guy in the first round. If he can interview well and perform strongly in the pre-draft process, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him unavailable at No. 25. But right now, most evaluators see him as a late first round flyer to take.
• The folks at The Ringer have the Trail Blazers selecting Arizona State freshman guard Luguentz Dort with their lone 2019 pick...
Drives to the rim with power: He has a quick first step, takes long strides, and draws a lot of fouls inside.
Shifty ball handler with long-term go-to scoring upside. Creates space with advanced right-to-left crossovers and spin moves.
One of the best cutters in the draft. He changes directions rapidly and has a good feel for when to make his move; he’s an explosive leaper who can finish lob dunks, too.
He drives the ball into crowds in the paint like he’s a moth flying toward light; his decision-making and shot selection are usually infuriating.
Million-dollar moves and 10-cent finishes at the rim are common; he rarely uses his left hand and has average touch.
Subpar shooter off the dribble with no consistency to his footwork as he gathers or elevates; his mechanics need a lot of work for him to be a reliable go-to scoring option.
Dort averaged 16.1 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent shooting from three, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 31.5 minutes for the Sun Devils this season. Dort participated in Portland's first, and so far only, predraft workout this year at their facility in Tualatin.
• Steve Kyler at Basketball Insiders has the Trail Blazers selecting Gonzaga power forward/center Brandon Clarke. The 6-8, 207 pound big out of Phoenix averaged 16.9 points on 69 percent shooting from the field, 8.6 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 1.2 steals and 1.9 assists in his first season at Gonzaga after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons at San Jose State.
• Chris Stone at The Sporting News, in a mock draft posted on May 20, also has the Trail Blazers selecting Tennessee's Grant Williams...
Grant Williams, Big, Tennessee
Age: 20.5 | Height: 6-7 | Weight: 241
Portland's frontcourt rotation doesn't exactly appear to be designed to handle the rigors of playoff basketball when it comes to combating the league's best pull-up shooters. Williams could offer some safety as a versatile piece capable of playing next to Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins in the regular season while moving into a center role in the playoffs.
He has a tremendous basketball IQ and would make an interesting short-roll threat coming out of ball screens with either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum.
• Jonathan Wasserman at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers selecting Croatian forward Luka Samanic...
25. Portland Trail Blazers: Luka Samanic (Croatia, PF, 2000)
Samanic may have earned a guaranteed NBA contract by separating himself during Thursday's scrimmage at the combine in Chicago. The 6'11" forward checks the right boxes with three-point range, the ability to face up and handle and a knack for sliding defensively.
The 6-11, 227 pound 19 year-old averaged 8.0 points on 48 percent shooting from the field and 34 percent shooting from three, 4.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists this season for Olimpija in the Slovenian pro league.