A lot will be made in the coming months about the Portland Trail Blazers going “all-in” to “build a championship contender.”
A large contingent of fans will believe it when they see it. It even sounds like Damian Lillard, who’s seen this kind of offseason barreling toward him before, won’t believe it until he sees it.
If the all-in plan is really, truly, actually going to happen in the summer of 2023, though, it will take more than moves around the margins. It will take that “blockbuster trade” that’s eluded Portland the last few offseasons.
At least for now, though, it sounds like general manager Joe Cronin is prepared to offer the most important asset needed for any trade of significance in the current NBA.
The Portland Trail Blazers will likely trade their lottery pick if it doesn’t land at No. 1
According to Jason Quick of The Athletic, the Blazers’ plan for their potential top-5, or at least top-10, pick, is to find a suitable trade partner to make a move for the present rather than add another developmental prospect for the future:
"About the only clarity in the Blazers’ path forward is this: The Blazers will likely trade their lottery pick unless they land the No. 1 pick (they have a 10.5 percent chance), which would give them the right to draft who many are calling a generational star in French big man Victor Wembanyama. Lillard all but etched in stone the trade-the-pick path Sunday when he said he did not want the Blazers to draft another young player. He said he wants proven veterans who can help now, not players who will need two to three years to develop."
At this point in Portland’s Lillard-centric re-tool, it’s time to give Dame what he wants and get out of the way. Or, as Lillard himself put it:
"I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to (draft youth), then that’s not my route."
The key words there are “then that’s not my route,” meaning that if the Blazers do decide to hold onto their top pick, they’d likely be doing it at the expense Dame leaving Portland.
That’s not the route anyone wants, and it’s certainly not the route Cronin has said he wants to take since he moved into the GM spot.
Where that pick could go or what it might bring back are still questions that need answers, but it appears one thing is for certain: If the Blazers really do want to finally make a huge splash and put another star next to Dame, they’re going to have to put their money where their mouth is and part ways with a truly valuable asset.