As of May 21, the Portland Trail Blazers are owners of the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. That “as of” is a critical qualifier – there’s a decent chance the Blazers trade that selection by the time the draft rolls around.
It sure seems like the franchise is more than ready to deal that pick in exchange for veteran help in a quest to help Damian Lillard win a title in Portland. If the Blazers are still selecting at the third spot, it likely means Dame is chasing a championship elsewhere and the team is kickstarting a complete rebuild.
But what if both things were possible? What if Portland does trade its No. 3 pick with the goal of acquiring win-now help, but it also keeps a lottery selection to spend on a prospect in the 2023 draft, whether it’s a pro-ready player to help next season or a high-upside flyer?
A Blazers trade could see the team “splitting their lottery pick in two”
In a post-lottery story on The Athletic, John Hollinger raised an interesting idea for the Blazers front office to consider.
The Orlando Magic hold two lottery selections – Nos. 6 and 11. But the Magic already have a strong core of Paolo Banchero (the 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year), Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr. Markelle Fultz has finally settled into an ideal role for him, and Orlando has depth in the form of players such as Bol Bol, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, and Jonathan Isaac when healthy.
Essentially, there’s little reason for the Magic to add two rookies to a roster that’s on the verge of beginning to compete in the Eastern Conference.
Enter Portland and the idea of “splitting their lottery pick.”
Orlando may be inclined to consolidate their two draft picks into one. If they can move up to the Blazers’ spot at No. 3, they’d have a better chance of landing guard Scoot Henderson to compete with Fultz or Alabama wing Brandon Miller to add extra shooting and length next to Wagner and Banchero.
That’s when things get interesting for the Blazers, as Hollinger outlines:
"Imagine, for instance, a scenario where the Blazers do this trade with Orlando, then deal the sixth pick for immediate wing help but hang on to No. 11 and use it on Duke big man Dereck Lively II."
This isn’t a fool-proof strategy, though, Hollinger adds. As a trade asset, the sixth pick is less valuable than the third, which could hinder Portland’s ability to land a significant difference-making veteran in a deal. It also requires a prospect the Blazers like, such as Lively II, to still be available at No. 11.
(For what it’s worth, Lively II would be an ideal option for Portland. He has significant upside as a prospect, but his defense would also help the Blazers immediately, as he’s an athletic 7-foot-1 center who averaged 2.4 blocks last season at Duke, even during what’s widely considered a poor freshman campaign.)
Is losing a very valuable pick to take two bites at the offseason apple, so to speak, worth the risk? Theoretically, this could be a good option for Portland to at least explore. In reality, it could prove difficult to pull off – but not impossible.
It goes to show, though, there are plenty of options on the table for the Blazers front office this offseason, regardless of which path the franchise decides to take.