By the start of the 2023-24 season, the Portland Trail Blazers will likely have a roster that has undergone significant changes from the team that finished 33-49 this year; the only question is how.
Will things look dramatically different because Portland traded Damian Lillard and started collecting young assets and draft picks? Or will the roster look different because some of its current young assets have made way for another big name or two to help Lillard push the Blazers toward a title?
It would appear the latter is much more likely than the former.
But if Portland General Manager Joe Cronin is going to give Dame a chance to make a legitimate playoff run as soon as next season, he’ll have to do some extremely quick retooling. If that’s ultimately the goal, here are four trades Cronin could make that could transform the Blazers’ roster from a 33-win one to one that can make a run in the Western Conference.
1. First things first
Before Cronin can make any significant trades, he’ll need to unlock Portland’s stable of future first-round draft picks.
Currently, the Blazers only have two first-rounders available to package in a deal: Nos. 3 and 23 in this year’s draft. Portland owes a future first to the Chicago Bulls because of Neil Olshey’s ill-advised decision to acquire Larry Nance Jr.
The pick that belongs to the Bulls is lottery protected through 2028, so until it conveys to Chicago or the protections are lifted, the Blazers can’t trade any future firsts, which severely limits their ability to make any large deals.
On the other hand, the best the Bulls can do with this selection is to land the 15th pick. If Portland plans on becoming a contender now and for the rest of Lillard’s career, this pick will likely end up landing toward the back end of the first round.
The two teams can find a common ground here. Portland can send the extra first-rounder it acquired from the New York Knicks in the Josh Hart trade to the Bulls, who don’t have any first-round picks this year.
Unless Chicago is sure this selection will eventually convey and land between picks 15 and 22, it might be best for the Bulls to just take this year’s No. 23 and not risk their Portland-owed pick falling later in the first round somewhere down the line.