Reason No. 2 to go all-in: Available assets to make a splash
One of the bright spots to come out of the Blazers’ disappointing season is their fifth-best lottery odds. They have two trade assets from this draft, with their pick and the Knicks’ first-round pick as part of the Josh Hart trade. In addition, it’s a draft loaded with potential star talent, which could also help raise the value of the picks.
Here is a full breakdown of the Blazers’ draft picks for the upcoming seasons.
Lillard has expressed his desire for Portland to trade its selection. He said the following regarding the Blazers potentially using their draft pick: “I’m just not interested in that. I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to (draft youth), then that’s not my route.”
The only exception to that is if they land the No. 1 overall pick (they have a 10.5 percent chance) and select generational prospect Victor Wembanyama. The 7-foot-2 unicorn Wembanyama is the only player in the draft capable of giving the Blazers the best of both worlds; with him, they could contend and rebuild simultaneously.
Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe: Backcourt duo of the future
On top of the draft equity, the Blazers have two young, promising players with All-Star potential in Simons and Sharpe.
Simons is 23 years old and coming off the best season of his young career. He improved his scoring by 4 points a game from last season. Simons averaged 21.1 points, 4.1 assists, and 2.6 rebounds on 45/38/89 shooting splits. Blazers fans know that Simons is capable of single-handedly changing the outcome of games when he catches fire from three.
Meanwhile, the seventh overall pick from last year’s draft, Sharpe, showed great flashes of potential in his rookie year. When the Blazers were shutting down key players toward the end of the season, Sharpe was given his opportunity to shine and certainly made the most of it.
In the last 10 games, the rookie guard averaged 23.7 points, 4.2 assists, and 5.8 rebounds. On the year, Sharpe averaged 9.9 points, 1.2 assists, and 3.0 rebounds on 47/36/71 shooting splits.
With a trade centered around multiple draft picks, Simons and Sharpe, the Blazers can offer an enticing package. They have enough assets to get a co-star that would “move the needle,” as Lillard said.
Reason No. 2 to tear it down: Blazers’ roster timeline
Alternatively, you can look at the young assets in the opposite light. The Blazers’ best route at a championship might be to build around the previously mentioned assets of Simons, Sharpe, and draft picks.
After all, the only valuable veteran players Portland has are Lillard and Grant (if they re-sign him) and, to a certain extent, Jusuf Nurkic. So it could make more sense for the Blazers to be patient and build around the younger players.
Lillard to the Brooklyn Nets?
If the Blazers went this route, they could get an extremely hefty return for Lillard.
One possibility is trading Dame to Brooklyn.
The Blazers could get Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton, and draft picks in return in that scenario.
Let’s say they make that trade, then select Houston forward Jarace Walker fifth overall in the NBA draft to replace Grant.
The Blazers could roll out a starting lineup of:
PG: Anfernee Simons (23 years old)
SG: Shaedon Sharpe (19)
SF: Mikal Bridges (26)
PF: Jarace Walker (19)
C: Nic Claxton (24)
Not only would they be extremely young and full of potential, but this Blazers lineup would also be well-balanced.
Bridges, Walker, and Claxton are great defensively and would be the players this Portland team has been missing. They provide a bit of everything on defense: length, rim protection, switchability, and rebounding, and they could better cover for Simons on the defensive end.
With Simons, Sharpe, and Bridges, the Blazers would also have formidable scoring in players that will only continue to improve. Bridges took a leap this season with Brooklyn as a go-to scorer. Those could be two or three potential All-Stars.
Portland would also have more draft picks to add depth with the Knicks’ first-rounder this year and any they’d receive as part of the Lillard deal.
By being patient and building around the young core instead, the Blazers could give themselves a better shot at realistically contending for a title.