Portland Trail Blazers Potential Draft Day Moves

Jonathan Daniel

What moves, if any, could the Portland Trail Blazers consider making to crash the 2014 NBA Draft party?

Draft Day is upon us! Since the Trail Blazers find themselves in possession of exactly zero picks in this year's draft we've been relatively quiet on the subject compared to normal years. Let's throw in a few questions to remedy that in honor of the occasion.

Dave,

What are the odds of the Blazers trading into the draft and where are we most likely to do it?

Elle

Small.

The Blazers carried 8 rookies and second-year players last season, leaving them in the unenviable position of not being able to rely on anyone off the bench and not being able to devote playing time to developing all those guys. They wouldn't turn down another draft selection, particularly in this deep draft, but paying for one means losing resources only to compound a problem they need to solve. Trading players drafted at higher positions a year or two ago to get a shot at a lower pick this year doesn't make much sense from an organizational standpoint. Trading modestly-valuable veterans for a low selection makes even less.

Continuing in that vein, Portland would face a currency issue trying to trade into the draft.

--The players they could most afford to lose wouldn't bring much return. None of those youngsters and none of Portland's bench veterans would get them very high.

--The secondary starters--Robin Lopez, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum--still wouldn't get them into lottery territory in the first two cases and wouldn't get them into the high lottery in the third. Those players are far more valuable to Portland right now than the players the Blazers could select with the draft picks they'd get in return.

--The two stars would buy the Blazers an ultra-high pick but they'd be moving laterally in Damian Lillard's case and scuttling their near future in the case of LaMarcus Aldridge. The one guy who would make trading Aldridge make sense--Joel Embiid--just did the broken-foot shuffle out of the Top 3. The Blazers would have to wait a year on him to heal and even longer for him to acclimate to the league. Portland would also be the last team to risk injury problems when selecting a center, eh?

I'm not discounting the possibility of the Blazers making a minor move this afternoon, but even that isn't too likely. Portland making a big splash would blow me over.

Hey Dave,

Looooongtime lurker and first-time write-in here. When talking about trading players for draft picks, you've written a lot lately about general strategies the Blazers could pursue. You paint in broad strokes what the team might consider giving up, but then hem and haw over how valuable a pick that player would garner or how much real cap space the trade would create.

Now I want you to get more specific. You're the GM, it's draft night, and the phone rings. The deal is straightforward: one player for a draft pick and the ensuing cap space. The question is, what's your tipping point? For every player (or at least for each of the starting five), at what draft pick do you say, at this drafting position or better, I do that trade, but not for anything less?

There's no need to match the draft slot with the actual team that holds it to test for realism, or to discuss who you would draft or who might still be available unless you want to. Just keep the Blazers' salary implications in mind. Matthews or Batum for a late lottery pick? Aldridge for a top two? Lillard for anything?? And what about RoLo?

Thanks, love your stuff.

Joe

I ran down the issues just above. I don't perceive a reasonable tipping point unless you want to trade Aldridge to re-shape the team with a Lillard-Andrew Wiggins backcourt.

I can give you the one scenario that would have worked (in my mind, at least) had Embiid stayed healthy.

I would have seriously considered trading Aldridge to Cleveland for the first selection and taking Embiid. This would have given the Blazers a young duo of Lillard and Embiid plus $10.5 million in salary cap room after deducting Embiid's first-year contract from Aldridge's number.

I probably would have taken Michael Levin's offer of three Portland bench players for Thaddeus Young provided the Sixers would go for that. Young would replace Aldridge at power forward just in case the team is ready to take off right away. I would have fought hard to retain Thomas Robinson to back up Young, if possible.

I would not have used that $10.5 million right away, however. I'd have carried it over to the Summer of 2015 when the contracts of Young, Matthews, and Lopez expire simultaneously. Then I'm carrying Lillard and Embiid plus $30-odd million in potential cap room.

Mind you, I wouldn't be using all that cap space. I'd need to determine which, if any, of the Young-Matthews-Lopez trio I wanted to retain. With 2 of those 3 players on board plus development from a couple of Portland's young guys, I'm not rebuilding. Instead I'm creating a cocoon into which a third star-level player can fall, acquired with my remaining cap space either through free agency or a sign-and-trade. If Embiid makes Lopez superfluous, I'm looking at $16 million in potential space. If I don't retain Matthews it's more like $17 million. If I don't need Young we're approaching $20 million. Even after allotting raises for the guys I'm retaining, I still have a large chunk of change to draw a really good player to the remaining spot. I've retained two stars, a solid starting lineup, and the recent bench draft picks that I didn't move for Young. All that remains is to plop the big-money player into whichever starting spot just got vacated.

That would be my tipping point. South of a radical re-make like that, I don't see how outgoing players and potential returns match up to create a deal. I'm not moving Batum for the 13th pick nor Matthews for the 22nd. Nor would I touch the mess at the top now that Embiid is a huge question mark. The players up there are guaranteed to be good but they're not big men and they're not guaranteed to have the impact Aldridge has...certainly not enough to imbalance my roster for.

Hi Dave,

Are there any non-lottery players in the upcoming draft you think the Blazers should or could go after - ostensibly by buying a late second round pick? Maybe I'm drinking the kool-aid, but I think Sim Bhullar could be pretty solid off the bench for the Blazers. It would probably mean jettisoning Meyers, but after seeing some highlight footage of Bhullar he seems to have better instincts/BBIQ than Meyers does.. plus the whole 7'5 thing. I know he can't run the floor, but I could see and T-Rob combining nicely in the back court.

Thanks,

Will

Absolutely. I loves me some Spencer Dinwiddie. If the Blazers could sneak into the second round and pick him up, I'd be a happy camper. Dinwiddie Fever FTW!

Yes, I know he's another shooting guard. So shoot me.

We've got you covered if and when any Portland moves happen today. Plus we'll have our open thread during the draft so you can come here to debate/discuss all the picks as they happen. Enjoy draft day!

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard

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