Undrafted Free Agents Who Would Be Steals for Portland Trail Blazers
Almost every NBA team improved through the 2014 NBA draft, reaping the benefits of a deep draft class. The Portland Trail Blazers, however, missed the party without a single pick in either round. But that doesn't mean the Blazers can't join in on the fun.
While a total of 61 players heard their names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver (including the heartfelt story of Baylor's Isaiah Austin), a number did not. Their NBA careers aren't necessarily over, but they can still come to fruition as free agents.
Portland has two roster spots to fill, although a few more could be opened should the team opt to trade or waive little-used players Victor Claver and/or Allen Crabbe. The chances are that the Blazers' sights are set on veteran help, but adding some youth can't hurt.
There's only a handful of undrafted players available, but here are the ones Portland should target.
Patric Young, C, Florida
The Blazers are a youthful team, and Patric Young would fit right in.
Portland's frontcourt of LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez worked wonders this season, complementing each other well. But the reserve big men could do with some improvement.
The bench averaged just 12.6 rebounds and 1.0 blocks, with Thomas Robinson, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard making little impact. All three are young and inexperienced, but none has the lateral quickness and muscle Young offers.
Robinson showed what a defensive big man can do off the bench during the playoffs, though he didn't do it with consistency. Young doesn't do much apart from that, as his offensive game is still very raw. He can only truly find offense close to the rim but would provide a terrific pick-and-roll partner for any of the Blazers' perimeter players.
Young's 6'10" and 247-pound frame would be difficult to contain in the paint, providing Portland with a very strong player in the post. He isn't supremely athletic or explosive, but he is a solid defensive presence nonetheless.
One that the Blazers could use down low.
Khem Birch, PF, UNLV
Continuing the trend of serviceable big men, Khem Birch would offer a defensive presence off the bench. But not in the way Young would provide.
Birch, a junior power forward out of UNLV, stands 6'9" with a 209-pound body and has terrific athleticism. Not only that, but the big man offers acute defensive awareness and a shot-blocking ability that the Blazers could use.
Birch doesn't have abnormal size, but his 7'1" wingspan and 35.5-inch vertical is key to his play on that end of the floor. Again, Portland doesn't get much from its reserve frontcourt. Birch isn't a lock to do so, but he'd probably do a better job than some of those currently on the roster.
Every team can use an athletic big man off the bench, and Birch would fill that role with the Blazers. Robinson is seemingly a similar player, albeit with an expanded offensive game, but hasn't proved to be consistent nor able to be a serviceable player.
Birch is better defensively and more tenacious on the boards, but it isn't a case of one replacing the other. His signing would allow the duo to play together if head coach Terry Stotts is willing to experiment, while also pressuring Robinson to perform night in and night out.
Sean Kilpatrick, SG, Cincinnati
Portland's offense requires everyone to be able to make some form of impact. Sean Kilpatrick can do just that.
It might be that and only that, but the Blazers aren't looking for stopper defense at this point. Unless Kilpatrick is going to break in and snatch minutes from Portland's talented backcourt, he'll be a great offensive addition.
Per NBAdraft.net, the 6'4" shooting guard averaged 20.7 points per game for the Bearcats. Kilpatrick converted 35 percent of his long-range attempts as well as 85 percent from the free-throw line. The Blazers already have a number of shooters signed, but if the team does opt to waive Crabbe, he could be useful in spots.
Crabbe played in just 15 games for Portland this past season, averaging 2.2 points in 6.7 minutes. He scored 18.4 points prior to making the jump to the NBA and is two years younger than Kilpatrick.
It might all contradict the Blazers chasing him, but it makes more sense considering the progress the team made this season. As a senior, Kilpatrick will bring experience and maturity to a team that needs it.
Jabari Brown, SG, Missouri
Jabari Brown checks in at 6'4" and 215 pounds, which is very similar to the measurements of our previous listing in Kilpatrick. They're both very similar in terms of what they offer, but Brown does just that little bit extra.
He shot 46.7 percent from the field and 41 percent from deep, respectively, as a junior, but he is also able to handle the ball and get into the paint. Brown isn't dominant doing so, but he can in certain situations.
The only blemish on that aspect is that once Brown takes the ball in, it isn't likely to come back out. He averaged more turnovers (2.3) than assists (1.9) this season but has improved his offense every season with Missouri.
Again, Brown would essentially fill a role the Blazers already have slotted to Crabbe. And with the emergence of Will Barton during the postseason, as well as C.J. McCollum ready to contribute, adding another moderately one-dimensional guard would be redundant. That isn't to say Barton or McCollum are, but having a combination of those four on the bench might be too much.
That is unless one of them is waived.
C.J. Fair, SF, Syracuse
Those listed thus far could be possible additions but won't exactly fill a need for the Blazers. A player who will do so must play on the wing. And C.J. Fair is one of them.
His combination of shooting and slashing would be great on the wing if only in a limited role. Fair has been compared to current Blazers forward Dorell Wright and wrightly rightly so.
His 6'8" frame and 6'9" wingspan give him decent height and length of the wing. Fair weighs in at just 218 pounds, so he might get pushed around a bit driving to the rim and finishing inside. He does have a smooth shooting form, hence he'd be solid if used to the best of his ability.
As such, Fair is a limited defender in terms of strength but can still provide quickness and disruption on that end. Just as Wright can slide over to the power forward spot to stretch the floor, so could Fair.
It's unlikely given his lack of strength to go against power forwards, but it's a role he had to fill with Syracuse this season. But he could still come in and provide shooting and slashing, which are both staples of Portland's offense.
Melvin Ejim, SF/PF, Iowa State
It's safe to say most NBA players, especially prospects, would hate to be labeled as "tweener" contributors. But there isn't really another way to describe combo forward Melvin Ejim.
He's been compared to the likes of DeMarre Carroll or P.J. Tucker as a forward who can play both positions, but he doesn't exactly excel in either. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to compare Ejim to the Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green, who became an integral impact player in the playoffs.
He wasn't a focal point, but his diverse array of skills filled in the gaps with so many injuries hampering the Warriors.
The style of Ejim's play is probably driven home hard enough for now, but he'd really benefit in the Blazers' system. He doesn't need the ball to succeed but can help out in many areas.
His 6'7", 219-pound stature and 6'11" wingspan falls right in that "tweener" category. Ejim is heavy and long enough to defend down low but doesn't have much size. On the perimeter, he's a tad too slow to keep up with quicker wing players despite fitting there in terms of height.
Aside from that, Ejim's skill on the boards, off-ball and in catch-and-shoot situations makes him perfect for the Blazers. He shot 34.6 percent from deep this season, converting on 1.3 three-point shots per game.
His defense isn't great, but it isn't a huge issue within Portland's system. The pace the team plays at masks some of its players' defensive woes, hence Ejim would be able to rotate and work within that. He did average 0.7 blocks and 1.2 steals, but neither is likely to truly translate to the NBA level.
Of all those listed, he probably offers the most diverse skill set of all. He might not have the size or quickness of most forwards, but he more than makes up for it in other areas.
On top of that, Ejim is a senior who is already 23 years old. That'd normally be a knock against his stock, but as Portland looks to add experience to a young roster, Ejim fits in seamlessly.
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