2023 NBA Mock Draft: Mavericks go defense, Pistons surprise at 5

2023 NBA Draft, Victor Wembanyama
2023 NBA Draft, Victor Wembanyama / Christian Liewig - Corbis/GettyImages
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23. Portland Trail Blazers (via Knicks) land Rayan Rupert

The Blazers appear committed to building around Damian Lillard, and they are rumored to be shopping the third overall pick for win-now help. Portland must improve their defense if they are going to return to contention. They were 28th in defensive rating and were five points per 100 possessions worse than the tenth-ranked team. It is impossible to make a run when giving up that many points.

Rupert is ready to make an immediate impact on the defensive end of the floor. At the combine, he measured at 6’6 with a 7’2 wingspan and 193 pounds. Rupert has the athletic ability to defend multiple positions and the quickness to stay in front of lead ball handlers.

His offensive game will determine his ceiling and playing time in the NBA. Rupert averaged 6.8 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 18.1 minutes per game this season playing for the New Zealand Breakers in the NBL. He shot just 36.9 percent from the field and 31.3 percent on his threes. Can the 18-year-old improve his jumper enough to become a 3-and-D wing? Does he add some ball-handling and playmaking ability? There are tools, but it will take time.

The Portland Trail Blazers can keep him on the end of the bench or in the G League as they wait for Rayan Rupert to develop, but getting a defensive-minded wing is precisely what the franchise needs around Dame.