TUALATIN — Before the Portland Trail Blazers workout session ended Wednesday at the team’s practice facility, a tall man with blonde hair could be seen exiting the building and entering a car.
Baylor power forward Jeremy Sochan, whose golden-colored head is tough to miss, had left the building a bit early.
But, he did appear at the facility, a sign that the Blazers at the very least are intrigued by the 6-foot-9 versatile big man.
Sochan (pronounced SO-han) is a name that has been rising up draft boards for some time, but it remains unclear as to where he is likely to land.
NBA.com’s consensus mock draft has him going 12th to Oklahoma City. Of the 12 mock drafts used to create that list, only The Athletic’s has Sochan going No. 7 to the Blazers. The other 11 have him going at an average of about ninth.
So, it appears that Sochan will be available at No. 7. But would the Blazers make him their selection, assuming they don’t trade the pick?
The Blazers’ greatest position of need is power forward. But the best three players at that position are expected to be gone within the top four picks. The fourth-best power forward, Iowa’s Keegan Murray, could fall to No. 7, but most appear to believe he will be off the board no later than to Indiana at No. 6.
That leaves the Blazers looking at either Sochan or Memphis forward/center Jalen Duren as likely targets to play power forward. But both are young and raw and not nearly ready to step in and start for a team hoping to make the playoffs next season.
Because of that, the Blazers could easily simply take the best player available regardless of need. In that case, the likely candidates could be Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin, Duke small forward AJ Griffin or G League Ignite guard/forward Dyson Daniels.
But Sochan could be tempting because there’s a lot to like.
First and foremost, like Duren, Sochan is considered to be one of the best defenders in this draft. However, also like Duren, Sochan’s offensive game is extremely unpolished.
Sochan has the size to defend inside and the athleticism to switch onto smaller offensive players and hold his own on the perimeter.
That skill is extremely valuable to have because teams often look to run pick and rolls to get their smaller scorers matched up against slow-footed big men.
Sochan is very attentive defensively and clearly plays with the intent to be disruptive. These defensive traits will no doubt appeal to Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The Blazers desperately need large defenders who can help protect Lillard and Anfernee Simons, two small guards not known for their defense.
Offensively, Sochan remains a work in progress. He took just seven shots per game last season, hitting on 47.4% from the field and 29.6% on threes while averaging 9.2 points per game. He is a fantastic finisher around the basket and has a solid short-range jumper, but isn’t going to frighten NBA teams with his midrange or three-point games. But that could change over time.
While his scoring abilities develop, Sochan could provide value as a playmaker. He flashed abilities as a passer from the high post and averaged 1.8 assists per game. He could be expected to find a cutting player who gets open within a motion offense.
The bottom line is that Sochan, like each prospect projected to possibly be taken around No. 7, has ability but has not demonstrated that he is a definite lock to succeed in the NBA.
If the Blazers come away from this draft with Sochan, they would still need a starting power forward and at best would have acquired a backup for the immediate future.
— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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