How tonight's game against the Hornets can affect Blazers' 2024 NBA Draft strategy

A late-season game between two of the NBA's worst teams could change Portland's summer plans.
2023 NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago
2023 NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

An April 3 game between two of the worst teams in the NBA doesn't exactly scream important, but tonight's matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Charlotte Hornets could have wide-ranging offseason implications.

For both teams, a win or loss could mean the difference between the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft and the prospect of its choice or a potential slide down the draft order in an already weak class. Earning the best chance at the No. 1 selection this summer is crucial for both rebuilding franchises, perhaps even more so for the Trail Blazers.

The Hornets, already armed with their point guard of the future in LaMelo Ball, landed the No. 2 pick in the 2023 draft and added what appears to be another franchise buliding block in Brandon Miller. Portland nabbed Scoot Henderson one pick later, but the Blazers' prized rookie hasn't lived up to (admittedly high) expectations.

The results of tonight's game could change Rip City's offseason strategy as general manager Joe Cronin continues to retool his young roster.

What Blazers vs. Hornets could mean for the 2024 NBA Draft

The teams that finish the season with the three worst records have an equal 14 percent chance at landing the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons have two of those three spots locked up. Charlotte has the fourth-worst record going into tonight at 18-57, while Portland is one game ahead of the Hornets at 19-56.

Victor Wembanyama's San Antonio Spurs (18-58) are the wild card. The franchise wants the best draft pick possible, but Wemby just won't seem to let the Spurs tank.

A Blazers win tonight would essentially lock them into a spot ahead of Charlotte in the NBA standings. A loss would give both teams identical records, but since the Hornets won a Feb. 25 game in Portland, they would own the tiebreaker and move ahead of the Trail Blazers in the standings.

That would slide Portland up to fourth in the lottery standings, which would mean a 12.5 percent chance at landing the No. 1 pick rather than 10.5. And while the Blazers are riding a season-high 10-game losing streak, the Spurs have won three of their last five games.

Another loss would not only give Portland better lottery odds, it would bring the franchise one game closer to being worse than the Spurs, which means one game closer to the third worst record in the league and that coveted 14 percent chance at landing the No. 1 pick.

How could better lottery odds change the Blazers' offseason strategy?

Portland will potentially have two lottery picks to play with, their own and the Golden State Warriors', which currently sits at No. 13. With a roster that's already one of the youngest in the NBA, adding two more rookies may not be the best play for Cronin. Packaging their two selections to move up in the draft may be a wise alternative.

But moving up to No. 1 from No. 2 or 3 as opposed to No. 5 or 6 is a much easier proposition.

And if Portland lands a top one or two pick, it would be less painful to part with a second lottery selection. That opens up the possibility of moving the Warriors' pick for other assets, potentially a future first in another draft with more promising prospects.

Or, since the Trail Blazers are handcuffed in terms of trading future first-rounders because of the protections surrounding their pick owed to the Chicago Bulls, Cronin could work out a deal to send Golden State's pick to the Bulls to remove those protections. That would allow him the freedom to trade a 2027 first, for example, to move up in next year's draft that features potential superstars such as Cooper Flagg, Ace Bailey or Khaman Maluach.


Portland has been in full tank mode for weeks, if not longer. But with a chance at earning the best odds at the No. 1 pick, it's time to ratchet things up a notch. Somehow.