As the NBA Draft approaches us, trade rumors continue to pop up for some top 10 teams considering trading down or trading their pick for an experienced star. We know there are going to be trades before and during the draft. Last year, some of those big trades including Memphis trading up to #10 and also getting Steven Adams, as the Pelicans traded down to #17 to get Jonas Valanciunas and Russell Westbrook was flipped to LA in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the 22nd pick. And another underrated trade was the Rockets trading for the 16th pick, where they selected Alperen Sengun as Oklahoma City was received two future 1st round draft picks in exchange. But a team that has been rumored in trades for a while is the Portland Trail Blazers, who recently traded away CJ McCollum and Norman Powell at the trade deadline. But, they’re not trading Damian Lillard since they have stated several times that they were freeing up cap space at the trade deadline so they can get him other stars. But is there a way they flip the #7 overall pick in exchange for an experienced star like I mentioned? But even a better, question, what is the Blazers master plan anyway?
Portland has not done a great job building around Damian Lillard in his 10 year career in Portland. He has only had 1 all star teammate which was LaMarcus Aldridge, who was only there for 3 seasons with Lillard. Then they retooled, and gave Lillard a scoring threat with McCollum, who never made an all star game with the team. The Blazers made a conference finals with that duo, but got swept to the non-Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors. But now after trading McCollum and Powell to gain more cap space, how can they get Lillard some secondary stars. Is free agency a possibility? There is a possibility that Bradley Beal and James Harden become unrestricted free agents with Zach Lavine this offseason. While McCollum was a very good scorer, he is not the 2 guard that these 3 players are. And the Blazers have money to sign one of these players. However, will all 3 of this top-tier shooting guards resign with their current team? 76ers head coach Doc Rivers stated the 76ers want to sign Harden to a big contract and Beal has also said he’s leaning towards resigning with Washington, considering they can give him $64 million more than any other team. And while Lavine seems like a realistic option according to some reports, I doubt he would leave Chicago, especially after after the surprising season they had before injuries got in their way.
But could they possibly trade that #7 overall pick which has been rumored to be flipped? The problem for Portland is, there really aren’t any stars on the trade market, unless you classify Julius Randle in that category. The secondary players available are Deandre Ayton and Malcolm Brogdon. Ayton has been rumored in most trades for Portland, if they were to trade the #7 pick. However, would it be worth it? I mentioned on a “Cool Sports Newsletter” article about if Deandre Ayton deserves a max contract, that Phoenix was actually more successful with other centers like Javale McGee and Bismack Biyombo. But yet, Ayton has so much potential. And at that point Jusuf Nurkic would become expendable, as they can improve their forward play and depth by trading him to a team that needs a big man like Charlotte for example.
But does this make the Blazers contenders with a core of Damian Lillard, Zach Lavine (possibly) and Deandre Ayton, with Anfernee Simons and possibly Mason Plumlee and Kelly Oubre Jr off of the bench? Well, some people forget that Lillard had one of the worst years of his career this season. I understand he only played 29 games but in those 29 games, he had a career low in points since 2015, a career low in assists since 2019, a career low in rebounds since 2016 and a career low in steals, FG% and 3pt%. Do we know he’s the same Dame that led Portland to the conference finals in 2019?
Also, the Western Conference is getting very competitive. The Clippers are gaining Kawhi Leonard back from injury, which should make them back to the team they were in 2020 and 2021. Denver is gaining back Jamal Murray which should make them back to the team they were in 2020. I expect the Lakers to play better as long as Anthony Davis stays healthy. Utah is retooling a young and competitive squad. Memphis’ young squad only continues to get better. And Dallas has made moves to make them contenders once again. Oh and by the way, the defending champion Warriors are also in this conference. And I expect big improvements from young squads like Minnesota, New Orleans, Sacramento and San Antonio. I personally believe the Blazers would not have a chance of getting anywhere close to the conference finals again. I believe Damian Lillard is not the same player he used to be, especially now that he is coming off of injury. I think the Blazers “master plan” of putting 2 stars and more depth next to Lillard is a bad idea, and will set them back for years to come!
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