Mock Draft Roundup » Who Portland Might Select With Seventh Overall Pick Post-Lottery
The Portland Trail Blazers will have to make their own luck.
After failing to strike it rich at the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery, Joe Cronin and the rest of Portland’s front office will have to figure out the best way to maximize their picks at 7th, 36th and 57th if they’re to reach their goal of pulling off an expedient retool around Damian Lillard. Free agency will be important -- the midlevel is probably their most clear path to a useful rotation player this offseason -- and it seems likely they’ll execute a few trades this offseason -- one would imagine that missing out on a Top 4 pick greatly improved the chances of Portland making a deal prior to or on the night of the draft -- but coming away from the draft with at least one player who could crack the rotation next season seems like a necessity at this point.
So with the order set, here are the first, best guesses of who the Trail Blazers might select at seven, with a few also extending their mock drafts to the second round. You probably have to go “best player available” at seven -- and to be frank, the Blazers could use talent at just about any position but point guard -- though the early mock drafts seem to prioritize positions, presumably due to a lack of information at this point in the process.
• Jon Givony at ESPN has Portland selecting Jalen Duren, a 6-10 freshman center out of Memphis, with the 7th pick...
The Blazers are early in their rebuilding process and have a gaping void at center, where often-injured Jusuf Nurkic is entering unrestricted free agency this summer. Duren is the most physically gifted big man in this class, bringing impressive finishing prowess as well as outstanding defensive potential as both a rim-protector and in guarding pick-and-rolls. As the youngest player in this class, he has considerable upside to grow into as well.
Duren averaged 12.0 points on 60 percent shooting from the field and 63 percent shooting from three, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.3 assists in 25.3 minutes per game during his freshman season with the Tigers.
Givony also has Portland selecting Duke junior forward Wendell Moore Jr. with the 36th pick and Stanford freshman forward Harrison Ingram with the 57th pick.
• Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer has Portland selecting AJ Griffin, a 6-6 freshman wing from Duke, with the 7th overall pick...
Griffin is at his best as a 3-and-D role player type, something he displayed all season long for the Blue Devils. But he has on-ball skill that could turn him into a go-to scoring presence. The Blazers have long needed a rangey wing defender who can also score next to Damian Lillard. Griffin could provide something they’ve been missing for years as well as long-term upside.
Griffin averaged 10.4 points on 49 percent shooting from the field, 45 percent shooting from three and 79 percent shooting from the line, 3.9 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 24.0 minutes per game in his lone season with the Blue Devils.
• Gary Parish at CBS Sports has Portland selecting Ochai Agbaji, a 6-5 senior guard out of Kansas, with the 7th overall pick...
I'm higher on Agbaji than most simply because I don't understand what's not to like about a 6-5 athlete who is a plus-defender on the wing and excellent 3-point shooter. Once you get past the top-tier prospects in this draft, the Kansas All-American makes as much sense as anybody and would provide Damian Lillard with a new teammate equipped to help from Day One.
Agbaji averaged 18.8 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, 41 percent shooting from three and 74 percent shooting from the line, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 35.1 minutes per game for the Jayhawks last season. The 6-5 guard was a consensus First-Team All American, a finalist for both the Naismith and Wooden awards and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
• Jeremy Woo at SI.com has Portland selecting Bennedict Mathurin, a 6-6 sophomore guard out of Arizona, with the 7th pick...
Mathurin cashed in on a big opportunity at Arizona, emerging as a go-to scorer and a force in transition while polishing up his game as a playmaker and defender. He’s a high-level athlete with some untapped skill potential, and he should be able to help contribute buckets as a complementary scorer next season. Mathurin isn’t the most intuitive player, but it still feels like he’s coming into his own. He displayed confidence and character while coming up big in some notable spots over the course of the season. He’s also young for a sophomore, which makes his individual development over the past year that much more encouraging. He’s an interesting fit in Portland, which needs to find supporting scorers around Damian Lillard and could use help on the wing.
Mathurin averaged 17.7 points on 45 percent shooting from the field, 37 percent shooting from three and 76 percent shooting from the line, 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals in 32.5 minutes per game last season for the Wildcats. He was named Second-Team All-American and the Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Woo also has Portland selecting Marquette sophomore forward Justin Lewis with the 36th pick and G-League Ignite big Michael Foster with the 57th pick.
• Sam Vecenie at The Athletic has Portland selecting Jeremy Sochan, a 6-9 freshman forward out of Baylor, with their first-round pick...
Sochan has risen up the draft board throughout the year. Teams are fascinated by his upside as a player who is extremely versatile on both ends of the floor. He’s a switchable defender as a 6-foot-9 big who can realistically guard all five positions using his mobility. He’s also really smart with his positioning and timing and seems to have terrific instincts.
Offensively, he’s huge, can handle the ball over large spaces, make reasonably high-level passes and finish effectively at the rim. Really, the only concern among scouts is his shooting. But there are some in the industry who see Sochan as a late riser, like Patrick Williams in 2020, because of how multifaceted his game is at his size. If you buy that Sochan’s shooting will improve, he has a real chance to be an impact player given his two-way upside at his size.
In general, the Blazers’ front office — much of which is still in place from the departed Neil Olshey’s regime — has tended to draft very young and upside-driven. Sochan is the kind of guy who has tended to fit with how they like to invest in projects. They could also use an impact defender.
Sochan, who came off the bench for the Bears during his lone season in Waco, averaged 9.2 points on 47 percent shooting from the field, 30 percent shooting from three and 59 percent shooting from the line, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.3 steals in 25.1 minutes per game.
Vecenie also has Portland selecting 6-8 Michigan freshman forward Caleb Houstan with the 36th pick and 6-8 Overtime Elite forward Dom Barlow with the 57th pick.
• The Athletic also put together a second mock draft with picks from staffers, and with the 7th pick, Jason Quick has Portland selecting Benn Mathurin out of Arizona, at least sort of...
Beep-boop-bap … beep-bot-beep … bop-boop-beep-bat … That sound you hear is Trail Blazers’ general manager Joe Cronin dialing up his colleagues around the league looking to trade this pick. The Blazers desperately wanted to move into the top four to get a franchise-changing player who could align with Damian Lillard’s shrinking window of opportunity (he turns 32 this summer). Cronin’s biggest tell this offseason came after the season, when he said, “you are more likely to win with veteran players than young players, so (trading the pick) will definitely be a part of our decision-making process.”
But, if there are no takers for the seventh pick, my guess is the Blazers will look to shore up their depth on the wing, or at power forward, and now that the Pacers took Sharpe — who is the type of high-risk, high-upside player Cronin says he likes to pursue — the safest pick would be Mathurin from Arizona. Portland wants long, athletic, defensive-minded players, and while The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie says Mathurin is “solid” defensively, he is more known for his offense, which is predicated on attacks at the rim and having a wide arsenal of shots. But again, picking here is not what the Blazers wanted, or will want on draft night. They will look to trade.
• Krysten Peek at Yahoo! Sports also has Portland selecting Benn Mathurin with the 7th pick...
Damian Lillard was the Trail Blazers' representative for the draft lottery, and even though they would have loved to sneak into the top three to get some help in the frontcourt, Mathurin at No. 7 isn't a bad situation either. He's a plug-and-play guy from positions 1-3 and was the go-to scorer during his sophomore season at Arizona, which will complement Lillard and alleviate some of the pressure from the All-Star guard.
Peek also has Portland selecting Arizona junior center Christian Koloko with the 36th pick and Gonzaga senior guard Andrew Nembhard with the 57th pick.
• Brad Rowland at UPROXX has Portland selecting Memphis freshman center Jalen Duren...
Portland could be in the market to move this pick for present-day help as they attempt to build around Damian Lillard. If the Blazers choose to make the pick, Duren brings a highly intriguing skill set with a 7’5 wingspan and a monster frame. He’s also extremely young and was the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class before reclassifying.
• Ricky O’Donnell at SBNation has the Blazers selecting Jalen Duren out of Memphis with the 7th pick...
Duren is the second youngest player in this draft, but his imposing physicality will be his best attribute from day one in the league. Duren is expected to measure at 6’10, 250 pounds with a 7’5 wingspan while possessing arguably more raw power than any prospect in this class. Duren is not a floor spacer at this stage (he didn’t make a three-pointer in college), but he’ll provide value as a lob target, offensive rebounder, and short roll passer on offense. His status as a prospect of this caliber likely depends on how you evaluate his defense. I’m on the optimistic end there because I believe he has the versatility to play multiple coverages against the pick-and-roll. Duren has the length to play drop coverage and the quickness to stick with ball handlers on the perimeter for a few moments when he gets to the level of the screen. He should also be a major deterrent at the rim after posting a 10 percent block rate as a freshman. Centers of Duren’s ilk typically aren’t viewed as super valuable, but his youth, physical gifts, and emerging passing ability provides plenty of reason to believe in him.
• Jonathan Wasserman at Bleacher Report has the Trail Blazers taking AJ Griffin out of Duke with their first selection...
Shooting accuracy, shot-making versatility and a 6'6", 222-pound frame hint at a high, valuable floor for Griffin. But he also won't turn 19 until Aug. 25, and flashes of step-backs and dribble moves suggest he also has plenty more scoring potential to unlock.
Wasserman also has Portland selecting Duke freshman wing Trevor Keels with the 36th pick and Overtime Elite forward Dominick Barlow with the 59th pick.
• Kyle Irving at Sports News has Portland selecting Dyson Daniels, a 19-year old who played his last season with the G-League Ignite, with the 7th pick...
This may be a little high compared to where you'll find Daniels on most Mock Drafts, but the G League Ignite product's readiness is well-suited for the Blazers' timeline.
Portland finds itself in the lottery after Damian Lillard missed the majority of the season after receiving abdominal surgery, but with the All-Star guard nearing the end of his prime, the Blazers will be looking to compete again.
Daniels was the Ignite's most consistent player all season, proving his capabilities as a jumbo playmaker and versatile defender against other pros. He can play alongside Lillard and Anfernee Simons on the wing, or play on-ball and make life easier for those two scorers.
Daniels averaged 11.9 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, 30 percent shooting from three and 40 percent shooting from the line, 7.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals in 32.0 minutes this season for the Ignite (at least the best I can tell, as there doesn’t seem to be a great place to find accurate G-League stats).