Jason Quick: Final Draft Predictions for the Trail Blazers
The Trail Blazers’ pre-draft process is over, and if the team keeps it’s pick – 24th overall – chances are it will come from one of the 30 players it brought in for a workout over the past three weeks.
Here’s a look back at some of the names and scenes from the past month, along with some predictions:
Anfernee Simons, guard, IMG Academy
Of the 30 players the Blazers brought in for workouts in June, Simons was the only one to be invited back for a second workout.
He’s a 6-foot-4, 180 pound high-flier who also has deep shooting range. He was slated to attend Louisville last season, but instead enrolled at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., after coach Rick Pitino was fired.
Maybe the second invite was to clear up some questions. Maybe it was a contingency plan. Or maybe it’s a smokescreen.
But the 19-year-old Simons said of all the teams that showed strong interest – the Lakers and Orlando among them – the Blazers asked more in depth questions about him personally than any other team.
Elie Okobo, guard, France
One of the lasting images from the Blazers’ pre-draft workouts this month was the final moments from the June 2 session, when Neil Olshey couldn’t take his eyes off Okobo.
His fixation came as the headlining group of Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo, Miami’s Bruce Brown and Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans dispersed to various baskets to finish their workouts with various jump-shooting drills.
But it was Okobo, draining left-handed shot after left-handed shot, who grabbed the attention of Portland’s top executive. At one point, several coaches picked up on the shooting spree, and as Okobo neared a completion of draining every shot from around the three-point arc, there was a crescendo of encouragement. When he missed one of his final shots, there was an audible exasperation from everyone watching.
Okobo seems to be a guy whose stock has risen during his workouts, and he appears to be a fringe first-rounder. So in other words, right in the Blazers’ range.
The downside is he competed in the French Pro A League, which ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla ranks as the seventh best pro league outside of America. The upside is he turns 21 in October and has at times dominated in France, scoring 44 points in a game in May.
Dzanan Musa, wing, Bosnia
A popular theme in mock drafts has Musa headed to Portland, which would suit the 6-foot-8 wing just fine. He played two seasons with Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic on the Bosnian National team, and he said he loves the ball movement of coach Terry Stotts’ system.
But of the five other teams Musa workout for, four of them pick before the Blazers: Denver (14th), San Antonio (18), Utah (21) and Indiana (23). Brooklyn (29) also looked at Musa.
Musa says he played mostly point guard and shooting guard in Europe, where he was an accomplished player in high level leagues.
Of note: He is listed at 6-foot-8, but looks much shorter.
FRONT OFFICE EYES
Often, owner Paul Allen makes an appearance at a workout, which usually signals a Blazers’ draft target is present.
However, this season, Allen didn’t attend any of the five workouts. Instead, his right hand man – vice chairman Bert Kolde – attended two workouts: June 1 and June 14.
The June 1 workout was probably the most star-studded group of the month, with guard Jalen Brunson (Villanova), the NCAA Player of the Year; guard Aaron Holiday (UCLA), the Pac-12’s leading scorer; wing Gary Trent Jr. (Duke) who set the Duke freshman record for 3’s; and Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), the Big Ten’s Player of the Year.
The second workout (june 14) to be viewed by Kolde was also deep. It included Oregon wing Troy Brown, Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie, USC guard De’Anthony Melton and Wichita State guard Landry Shamet.
(Photo L to R: Chris McGowan, Paul Allen, Neil Olshey)
Josh Okogie, guard, Georgia Tech
There have been some nice players who have come through the Blazers’ facility, but many of them – like Oregon’s Troy Brown, Creighton’s Khyri Thomas, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday -- likely won’t be around when it comes to No. 24.
It’s why I think the Blazers will zero in on Georgia Tech guard Josh Okogie. They need some guard depth, and after getting torched by Jrue Holiday in the playoffs, they could also use some size and physicality, two of Okogie’s defining traits.
He is 6-foot-4, 213 pounds and recorded the best max vertical at the NBA Combine. Translated: he’s big and athletic for his position. Remember how easily Holiday backed his way to the basket during the playoffs? Okogie is the same height and about 10 pounds heavier. Also has big hands and wide wingspan.
If Okogie is off the board, then the Blazers turn to …
MY BACKUP PICK...
Jacob Evans, wing, Cincinnati.
A high-character, hard-working glue guy who likes to do the dirty work. I think he is an underrated three-point shooter because of a hand injury midway through this season, which caused his stats to suffer.
Evans was called in for a second workout by two teams drafting after the Blazers – Boston and Golden State – and he patterns his game after another late-first-round pick, Jimmy Butler.
Evans could provide some depth behind Maurice Harkless and Evan Turner and just turned 21.