Trade deadline day proved to be an anticlimactic end to a week full of roster turnover for the Portland Trail Blazers. The team remaining is nearly unrecognizable from the start of the 2021-2022 NBA season, with only Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, CJ Elleby, Greg Brown III, Trendon Watford, and Dennis Smith Jr. as familiar faces still around.
Most of the players that Interim General Manager Joe Cronin acquired through trades will likely be shipped off soon or have already parted ways with the team. Tomas Satoransky and Nickeil Alexander-Walker have landed on different rosters and it’s safe to assume that Eric Bledsoe won’t be a Trail Blazer for any significant amount of time.
Justise Winslow, Josh Hart, and Keon Johnson may play parts in the Blazers’ future, but aside from them, fans have nothing to root for following the trades aside from hope, potential, and possibility.
What’s next for the Portland Trail Blazers following their 2021 trade deadline?
Joe Cronin held a press conference following the conclusion of the NBA’s trade deadline and if one wasn’t paying enough attention, could have confused the media availability for a pyramid scheme seminar.
Here are a few notable quotes from Cronin, courtesy of KGW8’s transcription:
Speaking on the Norman Powell-Robert Covington trade with the Los Angeles Clippers:
"“…the deal also gave us a bunch of leverage in the next deals that we needed to make, where teams would no longer hold getting us out of the luxury tax as part of the negotiation.”"
Speaking on how the Blazers flipped Nickeil Alexander-Walker:
"“The deal also got $5 million off our books next season, which was a goal of ours and a prevailing theme throughout our trades, pad our books for next season.”"
General recap of Cronin’s strategy for this season:
"“We have a bunch of different tools. We can be a cap-room team, we can be a trade-exception team, we can be a mid-level team. We have numerous ways to acquire high-end talent, specifically players that can earn more than the midlevel.”"
Responding to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian who asked how long Cronin expects to take to turn the team into a competitive one:
"“I don’t know yet how long it’ll take. The goal is the sooner the better. “"
Responding to Jason Quick of the Athletic who asked about the Blazers’ prospects in free agency:
"“…we’re confident that we can go out and be competitive in our recruiting. I think with Chauncey Billups, me and Lillard, I think that we will get in meetings and we will paint a very good picture of this organization and this city. And we’re not going to run from players that we think make sense here.”"
Responding to Fentress who called attention to the fans’ reaction to Norman Powell and CJ McCollum’s trade returns:
"“The way the marketplace shaped up, those were just the best deals that we could find and both ended in more of the young player and asset route. That wasn’t necessarily intentional. It was just the best deal that we ran into.”"
Responding to Quick who asked for a more detailed answer on how the team can sell its fans on the trades:
"“…our sell is the assets that we got. So some picks, some new young guys. The flexibility is a tougher sell, that is a you-got-to-put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is. And so we just need time on that. We’ve got to get into the spring and summer.”"
Responding to Casey Holdahl, Portland Trail Blazers NBA reporter, who asked Cronin to put a percentage tag on how far along the team is in his ultimate vision:
"“…often you can’t accomplish all of your goals in one off-season. So right now, we’ve created this flexibility we plan to use, but sometimes you’ll need multiple off-seasons to completely fine tune, you just need all those different sets of exceptions and trade potential things and draft picks coming through and all these things.”"
Joe Cronin spent the evening selling Trail Blazers fans on hope, flexibility, and potential assets. He made it clear that Portland will explore every possible avenue to improve the team as quickly as possible — which may take several off-seasons — whether it be through trade, free agency, or their newly acquired $21 million traded player exception.
The media in attendance pressed Cronin about whether he tried to land immediate contributors in exchange for Powell and McCollum, to which he informed that he did, but refused to elaborate on how far those discussions went and what ultimately prevented him from making those deals.
Instead, the Trail Blazers have Winslow, Keon Johnson, one protected first-round pick, second-round selections, and flexibility to show for the players they traded away — flexibility that may never materialize into anything real.
One thing is for certain, though. Joe Cronin accomplished the one tangible goal he had when he was made interim: clear the books.
Yes, clearing the salary cap table leads to the flexibility he’s trying to sell teams on, but flexibility is only an asset if it leads to something real. What’s real and true and present is Jody Allen will not have to pay the luxury tax this season, nor will she have to worry about the repeater tax until at least 2025.
Let’s hope that Cronin’s financial finagling will lead to something the fans can celebrate as well.