If the Portland Trail Blazers truly want to take part in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft, there may be a way for them to get their foot in the door. The Phoenix Suns are rumored to be shopping the 27th pick in exchange for a future first-rounder. While trading a future first for a player four spots removed from the second round (and the coveted non-guaranteed nature of their contract) appears disadvantageous at first glance, remember that the depth of this draft increases just about everyone’s value. The Trail Blazers are closing in on the point where their future first round picks could be rather late anyway, due to record.
The Suns are motivated sellers, since they have a deluge of young talent and guaranteed contracts to accompany their three first round picks (14, 18, 27). In theory, they are looking to delay their rookie acquisitions in order to save on space for the opportune moment—hence the desire for a pick in next year’s NBA draft or later. If Portland jumps on this opportunity, they will have the chance to draft a quality player for the low, low price of $930K (per the rookie scale) and save up for a quality free agent.
However; this gambit would not be without its risks. It is always, and I must stress always risky to trade a future first round draft pick. There are no guarantees that its anticipated value will remain unchanged between now and draft time, nor that a present day pick will pan out as hoped. I would only advise the Trail Blazers to take this route if there is someone they are particularly enamored with this year. Throwing some protections on the future pick would not hurt either, if the Suns were willing to accept the terms.
Personally, I wouldn’t entirely mind making a run at Shabazz Napier out of UConn. The four-year college point guard averaged 18.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.9 assists for the Huskies this season, under head coach Kevin Ollie. Those are ridiculous numbers for college ball. He has experience, training, scoring ability, and –perhaps most importantly – is anticipated to go between 25-30 in this year’s draft. If Mo Williams does indeed leave in free agency, replacing his scoring punch for under $1M frees up a fair chunk of change for other purposes (though it may mean a few more question marks for C.J. McCollum).
Trading with Phoenix is probably Portland’s best chance to have a piece of the first round without losing a starter. Since they seem content to keep their core intact, this would be a reasonable way to circumvent rookie stagnation if they elected to do so. The 2014 NBA Draft is on June 26th, just under three weeks away. The Trail Blazers front office has some thinking to do between now and then, as any potential trade will shape their offseason and maybe even their season to come.