With their playoff dreams skewered, it’s time for the Portland Trail Blazers to look ahead to the future, specifically the 2023 NBA Draft.
The team wanted to make a late push after the all-star break, but going 4-12 with some of the worst defense in the league hammered the final nails into the season’s coffin.
With Damian Lillard now shelved after having one of his better offensive seasons, alongside the promising in-season developments of Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe, there’s a combination of veteran foundations and young building blocks for the Blazers to work with.
Unless they trade Lillard, Portland will be in the hunt for the playoffs next year.
That’s what makes the silver lining of a potentially high lottery pick so lustrous. If the ping-pong balls bounce beautifully for the Blazers, they could grab a blue-chip prospect and find their fortunes reversed overnight. They’d go from a team stuck in purgatory to one of the few teams in the NBA with multiple young studs and a shoo-in All-NBA star.
Right now, the Blazers are slotted to pick sixth, but that’s before the NBA Draft lottery. They’re within a half-game of Orlando and Indiana, which could leave them in the middle of the lottery – still a good spot for a loaded draft like this.
Even if the odds don’t majorly break in Portland’s favor, it’s still worth examining what the Blazers would do at each of the top 10 draft slots, given the many magnificent futures that the team could have soon.
The pick at No. 1: Victor Wembanyama, Metropolitan 92
Was there any doubt?
Wembanyama has dominated most of the draft conversation this year, and for good reason. He’s leading the French league in points, rebounds, and blocks per game, looking like a slam-dunk MVP selection as an 18-year-old.
Winning the 2023 Draft Lottery would be a seismic shift for this Blazers team that’s almost hard to comprehend. Forget any of the trepidations the team might feel after drafting Sam Bowie or Greg Oden; having the chance to draft a potential transcendent defensive anchor who can handle the ball, shoot from deep, and could evolve into a leading scorer resets the entire team concept.
Just imagine pairing Lillard with a defensive center and offensive weapon who routinely makes plays like this:
The combination of Lillard and Wembanyama would immediately be one of the best guard-big combinations in the league and would make the team close to a dark-horse title contender.
With a few trades and signings to shore up the wing and depth, Portland could go from third-to-last to third-or-better in the Western Conference over the course of a single summer.