2. Amen Thompson and James Nnaji
Amen Thompson remains the higher-ranked twin on our board due to his superior athleticism and remarkable playmaking acumen. Ausar will be one of the best perimeter athletes in the NBA; Amen will probably be the best. His ability to glide through space and time is mesmeric. He can go from 0-60 quicker than a Ferrari and he’s going to absolutely demolish NBA rims in transition.
For the Blazers, there might be (valid) concern about Thompson’s traditionally ball-dominant role. He’s a non-shooter who hasn’t shown much progress in that department and he’d be joining a team, in theory, with Lillard and Simons cemented as the starting backcourt. Whether Amen starts his career on the bench or relegates Simons to sixth-man duties, that doesn’t feel ideal on the surface.
That said, Thompson does offer defensive versatility at 6-foot-7. He can share the court with both guards without sacrificing much on that end of the floor. On the offensive end, there’s value to be mined from Thompson’s constant rim pressure and truly special passing ability. He is going to generate a lot of opportunities for teammates. Plus, with Lillard on the wrong side of 30, it could be time to transition him gradually toward a more balanced role where he spends time running off screens and operating without the ball. His shooting gravity, combined with Thompson’s blistering downhill speed, is a tantalizing thought.
If anything, Thompson is a bridge to the future, whenever that future arrives. Then comes James Nnaji in the No. 23 hole. The Nigerian center has seen his role expand this season with Barcelona, one of the top professional clubs in Europe. He’s a monster athlete, boasting a 7-foot-7 wingspan and ample potential as a shot-blocker and rim-runner for a team in need of center depth.