The Portland Trail Blazers were the NBA’s busiest team leading up to the NBA trade deadline, but they will likely make more deals at the season’s end
The Portland Trail Blazers could end up with two lottery picks in this year’s NBA draft – their own and New Orleans’ – and with the team in win-while-Dame-Lillard’s-still-youngish mode, may end up trading one or both of them.
With a returning core of Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Nassir Little – and presumably Jusuf Nurkic and Justise Winslow – to support Lillard, next year’s Blazers will be younger and hungrier than the one that started this disappointing season.
After lopping a full 2.5 years off the average age of the players on his roster, interim general manager Joe Cronin may be less interested in using either or both of the first round picks he may have at his disposal and more keen on adding a veteran frontcourt presence.
Both picks are maybes at this point: Portland’s own choice goes to Chicago if it falls outside the top 14, and they’ll get the Pelicans’ top selection this summer if that pick ends up being between No. 5 and No. 14. With the two teams likely battling for a play-in spot or in a play-in series, it’s looking increasingly likely that at least one of those picks may be available to Cronin.
Portland could bring back Simons for $20 million and Nurkic for $15 million next year and still have more than $10 million in salary cap space to take on in a trade, which pushes the window for dealing those picks open a little wider.
Adding Winslow or Little to a deal would clear an additional $4 million-plus, and given Little’s play earlier in the season and Winslow’s since joining the Blazers, either would be a valuable trade asset. Also available is Keon Johnson, last year’s 21st pick.
Portland probably couldn’t put together a package for the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns or Zion Williamson, but there are plenty of excellent frontcourt players who would fit neatly into the Blazers’ sizable salary cap and lineup voids.