With the tenth overall pick in the draft, Portland has options. We’ve always said that. The options range from drafting a wing, to drafting a big, to trading for a veteran center.
Well, here’s a new one for the Blazers: should they trade down in the draft?
The benefit of trading down in the draft, or trading the tenth pick for a lower pick as part of a bigger trade, is that it allows Portland to net a wider range of assets in exchange for giving up a better asset.
For example, let’s say Portland trades the tenth pick to the Atlanta Hawks for the 17th and 18th picks in the draft. How does that help the Blazers? Well, instead of grabbing one lottery-level rookie, Portland can grab two mid-first round rookies.
Consider Portland’s situation right now. Their starting lineup is more or less set, with the center position aside. Nobody that would conceivably be available at the tenth pick would be filling that starting spot–they would be playing on the Blazers’ bench. However, that bench is in dire need of talented players. So, instead of acquiring just one talented player, why not acquire two? The difference in talent wouldn’t hurt the Blazers as much as the added depth would help.
If Portland keeps the pick, let’s say they draft Georgia guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a very likely possibility. But, if Portland trades the pick for Atlanta’s two picks, they can get, say, San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin and North Texas forward Tony Mitchell. Neither of those two players are as well-regarded as Caldwell-Pope, but suddenly, the Blazers have two rookies they can play off the bench rather than just KCP. With Portland, that goes further in fulfilling the need of depth.
Another benefit of trading down in the draft is that it allows Portland to offload contracts that they don’t want to a team willing to take that contract on so they can get the guy they do want. This could include most notably Joel Freeland, a big man that was awful in limited minutes for the Blazers this season but will be paid about $5 million over the next two seasons.
Take Freeland’s contract off the books, and that’s more flexibility in signing free agents or making trades. For a team in huge need of depth and an average cap situation at best, the additional cap space could be hugely beneficial.
The Hawks aside, other teams that could make an appealing trade partner for the Blazers include the Utah Jazz (who hold the 14th and 21st pick in the draft) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (19, 31, 33). The Blazers aren’t limited to trading strictly for picks, either. The Brooklyn Nets hold the 22nd pick in the draft and also have MarShon Brooks, a 24 year old guard that appears to be on the outs with the team.
It’s interesting to note that the Blazers have three second-round picks in this year’s draft. Second-round picks are hardly guaranteed for impact players, but the Blazers would likely keep at least two of the rookies they draft with those picks if they kept them, if not all three. Too many rookies in the locker room might not be ideal for the Blazers, which already are a young team, so trading down in the draft might also mean dumping a number of those second-round picks for other assets.
Trading down in the draft hasn’t seen as much buzz as other options have, but it’s a valid route for Portland to go. With their bench the way it is, especially compared to their starting lineup, it’s one option the Blazers should definitely give thought to.