3 sleeper prospects the Blazers are targeting in the 2022 NBA draft

The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t win the lottery after a rebuilding season in 2021-22. Their 27-55 record is the sixth-worst in the NBA. They left the lottery with the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft. While most of the focus was on the first-round pick, the Blazers also had the 36th and 57th picks in the draft.

It’s important to hit every pick in the draft, and there are several notable second-round prospects in this draft. While the No. 7 pick has a couple of good options, Portland also has to take advantage of their back-round picks. From a talent and salary cap perspective, finding a key rotation player in the later rounds is a huge benefit to the organization. Here are three targets for the Blazers in this year’s draft.

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3 sleeper prospects the Blazers are targeting in the 2022 NBA draft

Christian Koloko – Arizona Center

A 7-foot-230 big man, Christian Koloko has the size and skill to translate at the NBA level. He spent three seasons in Arizona and took a big step forward this year. Koloko averaged 12.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.4 assists.

The big man is relatively athletic and an impressive shot-blocker. It was probably the biggest draw of his game. His 7-foot-4 wingspan prevents more shots than he actually blocks. He can score from the post and finish above the rim on offense.

A few tweaks are needed in his game, but everything can be fixed. Koloko can be undisciplined on the defensive end, which can occasionally lead to foul trouble. He also has a tendency to bring the ball into the post. As he improved his free-throw percentage throughout college, so did his shooting. The Arizona State standout is hitting 73.5 percent of his free throws, which will be a major asset at the NBA level.

While his ceiling isn’t that high, Koloko’s current play isn’t far off from many centers who will be eliminated in the first round and would be a great rotation NBA player. He fits the mold of a modern big man at the rim and can immediately contribute in a limited role.

Darren Terry – Wing Arizona

Darren Terry is the most important player on Arizona’s roster despite sharing the court with Benedict Maturin and Christian Koloko. The scrappy 6-foot-6 wings play tough basketball for any NBA team. Terry was the leader of the team and had a huge impact on the defensive end. He often excels on offense, directing the game and swinging the ball from the perimeter.

While Koloko was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Terry also earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team. He averaged 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game. His numbers weren’t eye-popping, but Terry’s impact was consistent. He does something for the team and brings a high level of energy every night. Expect Terry to blend into the NBA and become an impactful defender to make his presence felt. His 7-foot wingspan makes him very flexible on the defensive end, and he can maintain his level in any game. Terry has no problem slapping on the hardwood or picking up one all over the floor. Expect him to impose himself on opponents and be a key backup player for an NBA team going forward.

Ron Harper Jr – Wing Rutgers

A four-year starter at Rutgers, Ron Harper Jr. will soon become a fan favorite. He’s improving his scoring average every year and has been Rutgers’ scoring leader the past three seasons. In Harper Jr.’s final year, he averaged 15.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.0 steals. He’s been an up-and-down shooter, but he’s shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range this season. He’s 6-foot-5 and weighs 240 pounds this season. The 7-foot-1 wingspan he displayed gives him hope for his NBA health and defense.

Harper Jr. is a great action shooter and has a willing trigger. This year, he’s been more efficient by taking fewer shots while increasing his scoring average. He needs to slim down a bit and will take on faster players, but he plays very hard.

Even with the extra size, the Rutgers product is an above-average athlete. It will be interesting to see how Harper Jr.’s retro style translates to NBA level. While he may not be the archetype of an NBA wing, he brings an intriguing level of toughness and productivity. He currently plans to make a projection late in the second round, and adding him with this pick would be a low-risk, high-reward option.

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