Why the Portland Trail Blazers should sign former Zag forward Killian Tillie

The Memphis Grizzlies waived former Gonzaga forward Killian Tillie on Saturday. Tillie appeared in 54 games for Memphis the past two seasons, averaging 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds. He initially signed a two-way contract which converted to a standard NBA contract on January 1.

That puts the 24-year-old Frenchmen on the open market; just four days before the start of the 2022-23 NBA season.

The timing is really poor, but Tillie’s size (6’10, 220 pounds) and skill as an outside shooter and defensive player should land him back in the association before the year is up – although he may have to go through the G-League first.

While every team could use a 6’10 sharpshooter like Tillie, some teams have more of a need than others – including the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland’s depth in the frontcourt is, to put it simply, questionable. Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant is a solid starting core, but after that it gets dicey.

Trendon Watford had a productive year last year as an UDFA, averaging 7.6 points and 4.1 rebounds while playing about 18 minutes per night for a Blazers team that had long thrown in the towel.

Drew Eubanks has a similar story, averaging 14.5 points in 22 starts toward the very end of the season. Eubanks and Watford each benefited from Portland’s lost 21-22 season, and while they are each deserving of their rotation spots – they could use reinforcements.

The reinforcements at present are Olivier Sarr, Greg Brown, and Jabari Walker. Sarr is the only one with much of an outside shot, and he is currently on the shelf with a wrist injury. Brown is a high level athlete who showed flashes as a rookie in 2021 – but he only shot 31.1% from deep and is still very raw.

Walker was an outstanding scorer and rebounder while at Colorado, but his outside shooting is still in question and he’s not expected to have a huge role as a late second round pick this past year.

Portland has a solid group of young talent with high upside, but Tillie has more NBA experience than every non-starter in Portland’s frontcourt. It’s a no-brainer for coach Chauncey Billups and the staff to kick the tires on Tillie, especially considering this group’s lack of outside shooting.

Portland currently has a two-way spot available, although they do not have a G-League affiliate which complicates things. They could add Tillie on a two-way deal and send him out to the G-League, but not having their own team makes it more difficult.

Tillie won’t be on an NBA roster when the season tips off next week, but he should find himself back in the league before the end of the season – if he doesn’t take a lucrative deal overseas.

Portland, time to pick up the phone.

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