There’s no shortage of basketball fans in the area who have long been familiar with Jordan Bell. A mainstay of Dana Altman’s Oregon Ducks teams over the last three seasons, Bell has built a reputation as the kind of no-nonsense, hustle-oriented player that hoops fans in the Pacific Northwest seem to have an affinity for. And for his part, Bell has taken a shine to the area as well despite growing up in southern California, which might have made his pre-draft workout with the Trail Blazers on Monday a bit more meaningful.
“Playing here or in LA would obviously be very exciting for me, just being able to stay home, stay in the environment I’m used to,” said Bell after his workout at the Trail Blazers’ practice facility in Tualatin. “I’m not knocking other places but I think this would be the best fit.”
But while Bell has been known around these parts for a while now, he’s only come into prominence nationally in the last few months. His stellar play during the 2017 NCAA Tournament, where he averaged 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game while helping the Ducks to the Final Four, and his performance during a a seemingly endless slate of pre-draft workouts has resulted in the 6-9 forward dramatically improving his stock going into the 2017 Draft. Once considered a player who would go anywhere from late in the second round to undrafted, all signs now point to Bell being a lock to at least have his name called, and very likely at some point in the first round.
“I think I’ve definitely helped my stock a lot,” said Bell of his play both in the NCAA Tournament and during the pre-draft process. “At Oregon, we didn’t really do so much switching because our guards weren’t as big, but I think now being able to switch and guard one through five really showed my versatility. And then the floor (in workouts), there’s so much more space. So in pick-and-roll I can show my passing ability, really catch lobs and just finish at the rim easier.”
All of which are skills the Portland Trail Blazers could use, particularly the ability to defend multiple positions, which has also been integral to Bell’s ascension up draft boards. Of course, being able to shoot the three, something Bell did very infrequently during his three seasons at Oregon, would also help, which is why he’s worked on extending his range.
“Definitely been working on the NBA corner three,” said Bell. “It’s probably the best shot other than a layup, so definitely want to work on that because obviously I’m not a seven-footer. If I’m on the floor with a big they’re obviously going to be in the pick-and-roll so I’ve got to learn how to get the weakside three.”
If teams think Bell can one day become even an average three-point shooter, he’s almost certain to hear his name called by commissioner Adam Silver within the first 30 picks, which would be more proof of the differences in what teams are looking for these days, particularly out frontcourt players. It wasn’t too long ago that NBA teams shied away from players who are somewhat difficult to categorize positionally, but with every team hoping to find “the next Draymond Green,” demand for players like Bell has suddenly increased dramatically. From the sound of it, Bell is hoping he can fill that demand in Portland.
“I think I’d fit very well (with the Blazers),” said Bell. “Defensively, being that force. Obviously the bigs weren’t as tough this year, in my opinion, so I think I can bring that dog to this team, the tough guys on defense, anchoring the defense, switching screens, I think I move very well for my size. And then offensively, just trying to find Dame and CJ, get them more shots, get them extra possessions, get offensive rebounds, things like that.”