Trail Blazers Cap Week Of Workouts With More First-Round Talent

The Portland Trail Blazers continued to host workouts -- some solo, some group -- this week at their facility in Tualatin with just under two weeks to go before the 2022 NBA Draft.

After bringing Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin and Memphis center Jalen Duren last Sunday and Monday, respectively, the Trail Blazers continued to host players expected to be selected in the first round at the end of the week. Duke forward A.J. Griffin participated in a solo workout Thursday followed by a group workout headlined by LSU forward Tari Eason on Friday.

Thursday’s workout was the first of the pre-draft process for Griffin, a 6-6, 222 pound forward who played 39 games for the Blue Devils his freshman season before declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft.

“I think it’s like a mixture of pretty much everything,” said Griffin of what his workout in Portland entailed. “We did shooting in the beginning, started off and finish, but as the workout goes on it's more conditioning, too. You pretty much do everything, a lot of defense, offense, making the reads, just the stuff you’ll see in a normal game.”

Griffin’s most marketable skill at this point in his career is likely shooting, as he shot an impressive 45 percent from three his lone season with the Blue Devils. He also posted an impressive 49 percent shooting from the field, which, along with having an NBA-ready body despite being just 19 years old, is likely why most mock drafts have Griffin being selected in the Top 10.

It also doesn’t hurt that A.J. is the son of Adrian Griffin (“A.J.” stands for “Adrian Jr.”), who played for five teams over the course of a nine-year NBA career and is now an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors. The younger Griffin noted that having a father who made the league has been helpful in his own journey, though it’s certainly no guarantee of success.

“I think there is the expectation of you should be pretty good or at least make it to the NBA if your father or anyone is in the NBA,” said Griffin. “You still have to put in the work, you’ve still got to learn, still got to do everything else that everyone does. I just feel like you get an advantage of the wisdom and knowledge but you’ve still got to learn how to do it on your own, too.”

Eason, a 6-8 sophomore out of LSU who participated in a group workout Friday morning alongside Colorado’s Evan Battey, Wichita State’s Tyson Etienne, Harvard’s Noah Kirkwood, Louisiana Tech’s Ken Lofton Jr. and Arkansas’ JD Notae, also has some mentors with NBA experience to lean on having played for Brandon Roy while prepping at Garfield High School in Seattle. He is also friends with former LSU Tiger and current Trail Blazer Trendon Watford, who was in attendance for Friday’s workout.

Eason isn’t just familiar with Trail Blazers past and present. Having grown up in Seattle, he’s spent plenty of time in the Pacific Northwest, making the prospect of joining the Trail Blazers all the more intriguing.

“It’s special,” said Eason. “My coach, my high school coach, played here. I’ve been down here several times for AAU tournaments, I’ve got people and family around this area. Just friends, the community around here, it’s really special. I went to high school here -- not here but in the northwest -- so I have some roots down here. It would be special to come back.”

Eason averaged 16.9 points on 52 percent shooting from the field, 36 percent shooting from three and 80 percent shooting from the line to go with 6.6 rebounds. 1.9 steals, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 assists in 24.4 minutes per game for the Tigers. He was the first player in SEC history to be named both Sixth Man of the Year -- he came off the bench in all but four games his sophomore season -- and All-SEC First Team in the same season.

After four workouts this season, the Trail Blazers are expected to continue their preparation for the 2022 Draft next week by hosting another round of draft-eligible players. Portland holds the 7th, 36th and 57th picks of the 2022 Draft, which will be held June 23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.