Looking to run it back after another early exit from the postseason, who should the Portland Trail Blazers target with the No. 16 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft?
For the Portland Trail Blazers, the 2019-20 NBA season was one marked with overcoming obstacles and beating odds.
Carmelo Anthony resurrected his career after an unceremonious exit from Houston the season prior, averaging 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game on moderate efficiency while starting all 58 regular-season games.
Jusuf Nurkić didn’t skip a beat after returning from a year-long absence following surgery on a broken left leg, averaging 17.6 points, 10.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals, and 2.0 blocks in the eight seeding games. Damian Lillard reached unconscionable heights as a scorer, averaging 37.6 points in the Bubble and breaking the 40-point mark four times (45, 51, 61, 42).
And most importantly, the Blazers overcame a multi-game deficit against the Memphis Grizzlies, finishing the seeding period with a 6-2 record and defeating the Grizzlies in the inaugural play-in game, 126-122. The Trail Blazers would go on to lose against the Los Angeles Lakers in a first-round gentleman’s sweep, but it was still an impressive season full of fight and persistence up and down the roster.
The abbreviated offseason will present Portland’s brass with some major decisions. Hassan Whiteside was effective as the starting center during Nurkić’s absence, but should he be retained as a free agent? Trevor Ariza’s $12.8 million salary for the upcoming season isn’t fully guaranteed, and waiving him could provide the Blazers with tax relief, but he was a meaningful trade deadline acquisition and could be kept as a role player or matching salary in a future trade.
Rodney Hood has a $6 million player option, but after missing the year from a ruptured Achilles tendon, he’s likely to pick it up. And of course, there’s the decision to be made on Carmelo Anthony’s free agency; he’s happy in the Pacific Northwest and has stated the desire to re-sign, but what would such a contract look like?
More likely than not, the Portland Trail Blazers are looking at running it back for the 2021 season, betting on health and continuity leading them to another playoff berth. They should look into some deals — Ariza’s salary, along with draft picks and several young prospects, could help them acquire players such as Kevin Love, Aaron Gordon, and Danilo Gallinari — but trades are hard to predict.
Executive Neil Olshey doesn’t have much to work with in terms of acquiring fresh faces, but he will have the Nos. 16 and 46 picks at his disposal. He’s a bit of a wildcard in terms of his draft history, so who he ultimately picks with the team’s first-round pick is rather unpredictable. But there are some players who stand as sensible targets for the Blazers, both as bold upside plays and selections with fit in mind.
With all that said, let’s look at three options for the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 16 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.