MAILBAG: Timeline for the Trail Blazers' Rebuild, Jabari Walker, Remix Call-Up Candidates and More
Answering reader questions in the first part of the latest mailbag.
Today is part one of our midseason mailbag. As usual, my great subscribers came through with excellent questions on a variety of topics. This installment is free for everybody to read. Part two, publishing later this week, will be for paid subscribers. Let’s get into it.
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Do you have any insight on the expected timeline for this rebuild? How many seasons does management think it will take before the team is once again competitive?
- Paul O.
At a minimum, they’ll be in the lottery this year and next. How quickly the Thunder have turned their thing around (two seasons of bottoming out, then making the play-in last year, now a legitimate Western Conference Finals contender) has given people unrealistic expectations. If Scoot Henderson or Shaedon Sharpe makes a serious leap next season, and they win the Cooper Flagg lottery in 2025 and he’s as good as people say he is, and everything else goes right in the meantime, they’d love to be back in the playoffs in 2026. Odds are, every single one of those things won’t fall into place and it could be a bit longer than that. Be prepared.
Does Jabari Walker have a Bobby Portis type of ceiling with the hustle he has shown recently? Shooting can improve over time (Brook Lopez comes to mind) and his hustle and defensive instincts seem to have raised his ceiling a bit this year.
Him playing that role assumes we have LOTS more shooters.
With this year's draft class looking...underwhelming from a "baked in talent on day 1" perspective, have the blazers said anything about trading 1 of their first-round picks?
- Jake S.
I’ve been high on Walker since his first Summer League, and every time he gets into a game he does something productive. The rebounding has added a new dimension to the starting lineup since Chauncey Billups moved him there last week, and his minutes are only going to grow after the All-Star break when the full pivot to what is euphemistically known as “development” happens.
You’re right that his ceiling depends on how he develops as a shooter. I’d caution against using Brook Lopez as a model there, because that’s an all-time outlier example of a guy going from a total non-shooter for the first eight seasons of his career to a good shooter after that. But there’s definitely room for improvement there.
To answer your second question, I would be very surprised if the Blazers traded away any first-round picks anytime soon. I haven’t done a lot of research on this draft class (I usually get into that mode after the season ends), but you’re right that people who do know these things say it’s not a great class. But there are always at least a handful of guys, even in bad drafts, and if there’s one thing we can say confidently about this front office, it’s that they’re good at finding value in the draft. Your first question was about Jabari Walker, who was the No. 57 overall pick 18 months ago and is going to have a 12-year career as a productive rotation player.
Are there any guys who have been playing for the Remix who could play their way into a two-way when Duop is converted?
- Alex P.
In the time since you sent in this question, Taze Moore got a call-up on a 10-day contract, so we'll see how that goes. I'm not sure whether their next two-way player after Reath is converted will be a Remix player or someone from outside the organization. All else being equal, of course they'd like to reward someone from their own G League team who's earned it. But if there's someone on another team they like more, they'll go that way.
As far as Remix players who could be in line for a call-up either with the Blazers or elsewhere, I've heard they've gotten calls from NBA teams on George Conditt IV. Ashton Hagans and Antoine Davis could be on teams' radars as well.
How about a non trade related question. I’m curious who have been your top 3 players to cover during your career.
- Jon B.
Putting aside Damian Lillard—a beat writer's dream of a franchise player who is behind the scenes exactly the guy he presents himself to be publicly and totally gets the role of media in the NBA ecosystem—a few guys come to mind.
In my four years in Chicago, my immediate thought goes to Taj Gibson. Pau Gasol is the nicest guy in the world. Joakim Noah is an all-time NBA character. I had a really good relationship with Bobby Portis when we overlapped early in his career and he's someone I still enjoy seeing when the Bucks come to town. A bit of a surprising one from my last year on the Bulls beat (the disastrous "Three Alphas" season): Rajon Rondo.
I only had Carmelo Anthony for half a season in-person before COVID took away locker-room access for three years, but he was great with us and I really enjoyed getting to know him. Maybe it's just because by the time he got to Portland, he was at a different point in his career and just grateful to be back in the league, but I found him very thoughtful and always willing to talk.
The last couple of years I got to know Nassir Little very well and really enjoyed talking to him about a variety of topics, basketball and not.
Honestly, the current team has a lot of good guys. The two I probably talk to the most are Jerami Grant and Matisse Thybulle, but it's a really good group. That includes the two guys they cut earlier this month, Skylar Mays and Ish Wainright.