At this point in the game, Portland has one mission: Make Damian Lillard happy. In contention for the franchise’s greatest player, Dame has given his heart and soul to the team—but in order to keep him in the Pacific Northwest, the Blazers need to place the right pieces around him and make a serious return to postseason consideration.
Enter Jalen Duren: A 6-foot-10, 230-lb goliath with arguably the most NBA-ready body of his class. He’ll join the league with a clear baseline of skills as a fantastic rim runner who makes his presence felt on the glass and as a fortress in the paint. Duren will greatly benefit from playing with established guards who toss lobs in the short roll and dunker spot.
Whether he’s contesting a driver head-on or flying in from the weak side, Duren does a great job of altering and erasing shots near the basket because of his timing. He’s no slouch when switched onto ball-handlers either, using his length and mobility to contest shots wherever he’s needed.
As Lillard spent most of his season nursing an abdomen injury, Anfernee Simons blossomed into a blisteringly quick perimeter shotmaker capable of running the show alongside the All-NBA point guard. If they’re going to start winning some games again, the tandem will need someone who’s willing to handle the dirty work down low. Duren makes for a low-cost, high-reward option to complete the assignment.