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Blazers GM Neil Olshey says players shouldn’t worry about where they’re drafted

Neil Olshey

The Portland Trail Blazers quietly have one of the best player-development records in the NBA.

C.J. McCollum was barely a role player his first two years in the league before breaking out in his third. Jusuf Nurkic was something close to a cast-off when the Blazers acquired him at the 2017 trade deadline, and before he ruptured his Achilles tendon in March, was establishing himself as one of basketball’s best two-way centers. Former second-rounders like Pat Connaughton and Jake Layman, after hardly playing in the earliest portions of their careers, ultimately became valuable members of the Blazers’ rotation, too.

Despite a need for development that contributed to his stunning draft-night slide to the bottom of the first round, though, it’s safe to say Nassir Little was a bit frustrated when Portland snapped him up at No. 25. But Blazers general manager Neil Olshey says draft position is basically meaningless, and even if wasn’t, Little also felt it was a “blessing” to have fallen to Portland.

“There’s times [when a player slips] that guys are salty about it. [Little] felt it was a blessing. He and his people know our organization takes care of young players,” Olshey said, per Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin. “We always tell young guys, don’t get caught up in where you’re drafted. Worry about who drafts you.”

Considered a potential top-five pick coming into his freshman season, Little struggled to find his footing at North Carolina, coming off the bench to average 9.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in just 18.2 minutes per game and shooting just 26.9 percent from beyond the arc.