While it wasn’t the dream scenario of landing the top slot and getting the opportunity to select Victor Wembanyama, Portland General Manager Joe Cronin did have a great lottery night as he watched his team vault up to the third slot in the 2023 NBA Draft. With a Blazers trade seemingly on the horizon, there are both obvious examples of players the team could target and a handful of under-the-radar moves to make.
The Blazers have all but announced that the pick is up for sale by committing to building a contender around Damian Lillard. While it may be tempting to imagine Brandon Miller lacing up a Blazers jersey and solidifying the wing for years, it’s more likely the team will move the premium pick for a veteran star or package that could help it make the playoffs.
A number of high profile names have already been mentioned, with Jaylen Brown’s name popping up most recently during the Boston Celtics’ slump. Most of the mock trades involving the third pick include Anfernee Simons, given his contract isn’t an albatross and packaging him with the pick could net a true star, but that isn’t the only path available to Portland.
If the Blazers decline the team options and renounce the cap hits of the players they don’t want to keep (potentially Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, Justise Winslow, and Kevin Knox II), while packaging the pick with Jusuf Nurkic instead, Portland could be in line for a handful of different deals than expected due to its increased salary cap room.
Here are six different trades built around that format in which the Blazers can keep Simons while upgrading their center or forward spots.
Fresh Blazers trade ideas that don’t involve Anfernee Simons
No. 1: A Portland-Chicago swap
Both the Trail Blazers and Bulls have followed similar paths as teams the past few years. Both sought to push their chips in to open a contending window, but despite the great play of both Lillard and Chicago’s Zach LaVine, neither team has been able to make any sort of dent in the postseason picture with their current cores.
If the Bulls want to bite the bullet and start a rebuild, they’ll need to trade their biggest needle-mover outside of LaVine. While the former Timberwolves star may be a sexier fit next to Lillard, the better move for both teams would be sending DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso to PDX while the Bulls snag a premium pick to rebuild.
Nikola Vucevic is slated to seek a sizeable raise in the offseason, which the Bulls may not want to stomach, and acquiring Nurkic gives them the stability that they need at the position. The chance to draft either Scoot Henderson and hand him the keys to the offense or Miller, who would be a wonderful second fiddle to LaVine, are attractive options for Chicago.
For the Blazers, the chance to pair Lillard with a proven scorer like DeRozan could pay dividends. The former Raptors and Spurs guard would become the best player that Dame’s played with, and Lillard would help open up even more space to for DeRozan’s dominant post game.
Adding Caruso off the bench also gives the Blazers one of the strongest guard rooms in the entire Western Conference due to its balance.
Portland would still need to add a center to fill in for Nurkic, but it’s easier to find suitable big men than it is to find a talented wing. Adding DeRozan would be the exact type of under-the-radar move the Blazers need to get right back in the playoff picture.