Most long-time Trail Blazer fans are on the edge of their seats heading into Thursday’s NBA Draft, expecting – or at least hoping – their team makes some sort of blockbuster trade with those contracts that are set to expire after the upcoming season.
But I’m not sure that’s going to happen. In fact, I’d say it’s unlikely – for several reasons.
It’s too early for those expirings to have their highest value. A lot of NBA teams aren’t so willing to take on those contracts prior to free agency and the start of next season. It would be a signal they are likely tanking before the season even starts. It’s much more possible that at the trade deadline teams will have seen enough of their roster to know they aren’t going to make the playoffs so would more willing to take on those contracts for half a season. Another team, too, might be on the fringe of a playoff berth and desperate enough to give up a lot to get a player it thinks could put them over the top.
And the other factor that may stifle a major pre-draft deal is pending free agency, which doesn’t open until July. There may be quality players out there who would be available if their team lands a premium free agent. Would the Clippers, for example, deal Lou Williams or Montrezl Harrell if they sign Kawhi Leonard? Maybe.
Another factor limiting Portland’s trade options is its draft pick. This is considered a very weak draft. There aren’t a lot of can’t-miss players available and the Trail Blazers’ No. 25 pick has very little value. Not many teams would consider trading for it, because it’s late enough in the first round that you wouldn’t necessarily get a player you would want to give guaranteed money. You can probably get a similar player in the second round with no obligation for a guaranteed contract.
Who can the Trail Blazers get at No. 25?
Well, this seems to be a strange year. Outside of the top few players, there is a wide disparity of thought about the next level of prospects. There are no perfect 10s, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Blazers’ Neil Olshey has been pretty good at finding diamonds in the rough but the question when picking at 25 is always the same – will someone else take the player you covet before it’s your turn? And on the other hand, there could be slippage, with players falling past what their slot was forecast.
The Blazers need a wing player who can shoot but I wouldn’t expect them to draft for positional need. At that spot in the draft it’s always best to just get the player with the highest NBA ceiling, one who could be a future asset – regardless of position.
And it’s also important to remember that the Trail Blazers’ developmental staff does a good job of bringing players along. This is a factor because it’s doubtful that a rookie taken at No. 25 is going get any sort of significant playing time for a team that has designs on a conference championship.
A study of players who fit a rough stereotype of Portland’s acquisitions in the past could include the following players, some of whom are predicted to go higher than when the Trail Blazers will pick:
Bol Bol – Incredibly gifted but odds are that he won’t be on the board for Portland, but there is talk he’s slipping because of injury concerns and his dedication to basketball. It’s a shame shame that Walla Walla isn’t in the NBA NBA.
Kevin Porter – The 6-5 swingman out of Seattle by way of USC has the NBA body and is still young. Very explosive and athletic but needs work on shot selection and decision making.
Mfiondu Kabengele – He’s 6-10 and 250, a Canadian who played at Florida State. He jumped on a lot of draft boards during March Madness but spent the season coming off the bench. Is foul prone, too. His mother is Dikembe Mutombo’s sister.
Cameron Johnson – Spent four years at North Carolina and is a big-time shooter and a 6-6 small forward. Sounds like a good fit for the Trail Blazers but may be gone by the 25th pick.
KZ Okpala – A 6-8 wing out of Stanford who is explosive and very athletic. His shooting would probably need some work but he’s a good prospect with that athleticism.
Darius Bazley – A 6-10 forward who is reported to have a 6-11 standing reach. Committed to Ohio State and Syracuse but skipped college and the G-League to prepare for the NBA. A bit of a reach but you never know in this situation.