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Trail Blazers not rushing Nassir Little in Vegas Summer League

As NBA draft pick after draft pick disappeared off the board June 20, most of the attention turned to Bol Bol’s startling drop from potential lottery selection to the No. 44 choice.

He overshadowed another expected top pick invited to New York for the draft who also didn’t go as high as many expected.

But for Nassir Little, he fell to what looks to be an almost ideal situation. He went 25th to the Portland Trail Blazers, a team stocked with talent coming off an appearance in the Western Conference finals, where it was swept by the Golden State Warriors.

Easy does it

The Blazers are in the position to slowly bring along the 19-year-old out of North Carolina rather than ask him to step in as a leader right away.

“The game’s really fast for him right now,” Blazers Summer League coach Jim Moran said. “Once he kind of settles in and catches his breath, I think everything will fall into place for him. As he gets more reps in our offense and gets more comfortable, I think he’s really going to be able to find his spots where he can be effective.”

Portland has been bringing Little off the bench, but he was averaging 22 minutes entering Thursday’s play in the Vegas Summer League, third on the team behind Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr., who each have averaged 26.3 minutes. Simons at 22 points per game and Trent at 17.7 also have been the Blazers’ leading scorers.

Little has averaged 4.3 points and 4.3 rebounds, and he likely will be a role player next season for the Blazers’ main squad. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are the expected offensive leaders.

“For me, I just want to rebound, defend, be an energy guy, hit open shots,” Little said. “Dame and CJ can carry most of the offensive load. If I just play my role, then we’ll be fine.”

North Carolina coach Roy Williams used Little mostly inside, and at 6 feet 6 inches and with a 7-1 wingspan, he became a top-level defender. If Little is to eventually make the offensive impact expected of a first-rounder in the NBA, he will need to improve his outside shot.

“He can guard multiple positions,” Moran said. “Offensively, he’s trying to figure it out. We’re asking a lot out of him. He’s only had a week of practice in the NBA, and we’re trying to acclimate him into our system. It’s been a lot of information thrown at him.”

He can handle it

Little can probably handle it.

He grew up in a family where both parents served in the military, taking them to posts in England, Hawaii, Japan and Spain.

Adapting to new situations isn’t unusual.

Little took exception to a question about falling in the draft, but agreed with the general point that he landed in a good spot. He went to an organization that can be patient with his development, one that already is built to compete for the championship, though there are plenty of contenders in the Western Conference.

He didn’t go to the New York Knicks or Orlando Magic or some other team desperate for a turnaround and willing to give big minutes to a young player not ready for that kind of responsibility.

“It gives you a chance to be a rookie and learn things and not always have the answers right away,” Little said. “I think that’s the best way to do it.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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