After the conclusion of last week's NBA Draft, many believed the steal of the night was Nassir Little, the 6-foot-6 former Tar Heel who fell to the Portland Trail Blazers with the 25th pick.
Portland’s average of 114.7 points per game ranked them sixth in the NBA, and its 46.7 field goal percentage is 12th in the league. Additionally, the Trail Blazers ranked ninth in three-point percentage at 35.9 percent. This is an area where Little was inconsistent at times in his lone season in Chapel Hill. If he wants to put up big scoring numbers and fit well with Portland’s style of play, Little will need to be more consistent on the three ball.
Little’s 9.8 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game in 18 minutes off the bench at North Carolina showed his potential to be a solid scorer and contributor on the boards. While his numbers were great off the bench, the 19-year-old still has potential to be a phenomenal player with room to grow and polish his game. With an impressive wingspan and frame, Little can defend both guards and forwards and has an ability to move well laterally.
With NBA free agency already underway, the Trail Blazers have some important decisions to make. Al-Farouq Aminu already departed for the Orlando Magic on a 3-year deal, leaving a gap at the forward spot. Portland now needs the services of Little more than before, either on the wing or as a small-ball four.
Little will not be an instant solution, nor is he expected to be an immediate starter. But he offers Portland a scorer off the bench, and depth at the forward positions, their biggest position of need. Little will have time to improve his game, find a consistent rhythm beyond the arc and get used to Portland’s style of play. Entering his rookie season, expect Little to be become a key piece in Portland off the bench and maybe even develop into a reliable young contributor for a Western Conference contender.
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