With the 7th overall pick, the Portland Trail Blazers select Memphis’ Jalen Duren.
In the first version of our mock draft, we had the Trail Blazers selecting Duren with their second lottery pick (which currently projects to be 11th overall), but this time around, I’m not so certain that they’ll be willing to risk another team taking him between their two 1st round picks. Portland will likely see both the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs as threats to take Duren in the lottery, so in this case, they don’t give them the opportunity.
The Trail Blazers are very much in need of more depth in their frontcourt, and perhaps outside of Chet Holmgren (who I struggle to classify as a true center, to begin with), Duren may have the highest ceiling of every big man in the 2022 Draft.
Overall, scouts are having a difficult time getting a good read on Duren due to the poorly constructed Memphis Tigers team that he’s played for this season. While this remains true, since roughly the beginning of February, he undeniably turned a bit of a corner and showed why NBA teams will really need to think about taking him off the draft board sooner rather than later.
Duren’s defense by far is his main draw—his upside as a rim protector is higher than most prospects in his draft class and becomes even more impressive when factoring in his age. His roughly 7’5” wingspan, strength in the post, and elite vertical athleticism all bode well for his shot-blocking at the next level, and he’s even shown some flashes of disruption in passing lanes on the perimeter. Considering he also projects as a very good rebounder on both ends of the floor, he’ll likely have a place in the league even if he never taps his ceiling on offense.
That being said, he has continued to show flashes of the short roll passing that I think will be instrumental to his success at the next level. He’s also been a more consistent scorer and has gotten to show a few glimpses of his jump shot. Duren’s complete offensive package is still very much a work in progress, but because of his impressive defensive fundamentals and Dwight Howard-like physical profile, a team toward the top may view him as a project worth taking on.
I think the Trail Blazers may target AJ Griffin if he were to fall to the 7th pick along with Iowa’s Keegan Murray, but in this mock, they’re swayed too much by Duren’s upside to bite on Murray first.