The Portland Blazers held onto their first round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, using it to select arguably the biggest steal of the draft in UNC’s Nassir Little.
There was a ton of chatter going into the 2019 NBA Draft that the Portland Trail Blazers would trade their first round selection. The Blazers needed to shed some salary to save money, and also needed to bring in some players that can help them win in the playoffs. It looked like they would use their No. 25 pick to do one of those things.
Instead, they held on o their selection and landed Nassir Little, who fell right into their lap. Little is 6’6”, 224 pounds and has a 7’1.25” wingspan. He was a projected lottery pick who slipped to the end of the first round. He was top-five recruit coming out of high school and was also named the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game MVP over players like Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and Coby White.
Little’s fall in the draft shocked almost everyone and right off the bat people are calling this a steal for a Portland. Guys with his physical profile, skill and previous accolades don’t normally slip that far. Even Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey said in the post-draft press conference that they were surprised Little was still around. They needed a switchable wing and they got one.
"“Him getting to 25 certainly wasn’t a situation we were anticipating, but we’re thrilled to have him,” Olshey said."
Little did not live up this his full potential coming out of high school and had a disappointing freshman season based on the projections he had. That hurt his draft stock. Little averaged just 9.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.5 steals and 0.5 blocks per game while also shooting 26.9 percent from the 3-point line. He did shoot 77 percent from the free throw line, which is a promising sign for his touch as a shooter.
He is going to have a chip on his shoulder because he never got to fully showcase what he was cable of doing on both ends of the court at North Carolina. Now people doubt him, and he didn’t go as high as he wanted.
Little has a relationship with current Blazers guard Anfernee Simons. They played a pickup basketball game together just a week ago. That will be a benefit in his growth and getting to learn the city and the NBA better with a friend’s help who has already done it and is around the same age.
He has a decent-looking jumper and being around NBA coaches full-time should help him develop into a better, more reliable 3-point shooter. Also, he will not be asked to be the go-to guy and have the pressure of being the best player on the team.
Little will have to play off guys like Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Anfernee Simons, and that should make things easier for him on the offensive end. He also projects as a great defender who will be able to impact the game with his length, strength and quickness.
Portland could be losing Al-Farouq Aminu this summer and Maurice Harkless next year. Little could be the guy to step up if one of them were to leave. He is an ideal fit for the Blazers, who needed more explosiveness on the roster.
He can play both forward spots and can guard 1-4 in the future. Little is built perfectly for today’s style in the NBA as a 3-and-D player who could become like an Andre Iguodala or Caron Butler over time.
There is still room to grow for Little, but based on his basketball profile, IQ, physical tools and where he was supposed to go in the draft, this was a steal for the Blazers in the back half of the first round at No. 25. Rip City might have found a guy who can help impact winning for a long time.