1. Draft Picks
After acquiring the Golden State Warriors' 2024 first-round pick in the deal that sent Jrue Holiday to the Boston Celtics, Portland could end up with two lottery picks in this year’s draft if the Warriors’ struggles keep them out of the playoffs.
Aside from a protected pick Portland owes the Chicago Bulls, the Blazers control their future first-round picks, in addition to Boston and the Milwaukee Bucks' 2029 first-round picks acquired in the Lillard and Holiday trades.
The blueprint for teams that trade superstars is clear: Load up on draft picks and acquire as much young talent as possible. Teams still in the process of developing their talent base have benefited from stockpiling draft picks, prioritizing quantity of picks over quality given the uncertainty of prospect evaluation.
For example, among the bounty of picks the New Orleans Pelicans acquired from trading Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday, the team hit on draft picks Trey Murphy III in the middle of the first round and Herb Jones in the second round.
The Oklahoma City Thunder replenished their talent base after the Russell Westbrook era ended by stockpiling picks. The Thunder’s core of homegrown players - Jalen Williams, Lugentz Dort and Chet Holmgren, among others - have catapulted the team into contention.
Portland’s full return for Lillard delivered the team a combination of draft picks and veterans. The first half of this season has revealed that the group of veterans the team assembled isn’t talented enough to continue building around.
Instead, Cronin’s focus should shift to building along the same timeline as Shaedon Sharpe, Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson, three players who have flashed their potential as building blocks despite growing pains.
The success of the Thunder this year crystallizes why building through the draft is a sound approach to rebuilding. Young players on cost-controlled contracts maximize a team’s flexibility to make trades, take on bad salaries to acquire assets and make reasonable plays at young free agents.
Acquiring multiple first-round picks from Lillard trade is a good start, but look for Cronin to prioritize draft capital in his negotiations with buyers ahead of this year's trade deadline.