The Portland Trail Blazers have looked a lot more like a team going for the top draft pick than an NBA title shot so far in the 2021-22 season. With Damien Lillard slated for surgery — an abdominal operation that should keep him out for at least 6-8 weeks — that trend isn’t expected to change any time soon. Fans have already started to change their hopes for this season, with most crossing their fingers for a top-3 pick now instead of a playoff seeding with home advantage.
As tempting as the idea of pairing Damian Lillard with a top prospect is, fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. More likely than not, the selection will be traded this offseason in exchange for more established immediate help for Dame.
With Lillard’s schedule and Portland’s lack of options to significantly improve the roster, their next lottery pick offers interim GM Joe Cronin his best chip to land a major trade.
The Portland Trail Blazers will most likely trade their 2022 NBA draft pick
NBA first-round picks are like cigarettes in jail — a highly valued commodity that serves as currency. Since the Blazers’ 2022 first-round pick was traded to the Chicago Bulls with lottery protections, Portland is unable to trade any of their future picks until one of their picks is passed on to the Bulls. .
This protection crippled the Trail Blazers’ ability to navigate the commercial market. Former Atlanta Hawks young winger Cam Reddish has just been traded to the New York Knicks in exchange for a future first. Portland certainly could have used a 3&D wing of his stature, with room to improve, but were unable to get involved in the bidding war due to protections on their 2022 pick.
Theoretically, Cronin could call the Chicago Bulls and renegotiate protections on the pick, freeing up the Trail Blazers to move their future picks. With Portland rapidly dropping in the standings and climbing in the lottery odds, it makes more sense for the Blazers to stay put and see where the pick lands.
Outside of the top 3 draft prospects, a consensus group of Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Auburn’s Jabari Smith, the Blazers – and Damian Lillard specifically – will have no use for any of the others. hopes. None of the recruits slated for 2023 are likely to be of enough immediate help to move the needle to Portland and bring more value to the team as a business asset.
Even if the Blazers land in the top 3 of the 2022 NBA Draft, it certainly makes sense to move the selection further.
Holmgren, Banchero and Smith all have superstar potential, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’ll be level with a second option on a championship contender during Lillard’s prime.
Instead, the Blazers could move this top-3 draft pick for a star on a rebuilding team. someone like Jaylen Brown, Brandon Ingram, or even Zion Williamson might be available for a top-3 pick at draft time.
While it’s not guaranteed the Blazers will trade their 2022 first-round pick, I certainly wouldn’t bet against it if the team is really all-in on Damian Lillard.