The 2014 draft is viewed by many basketball experts and fans as the best since 2003. Portland does not have a draft pick in this summer's draft but the team does have a few young players they can trade. The Blazer's Edge panel debates whether or not the Trail Blazers should trade for a first-round pick and, if so, at what price.
Dane Carbaugh: The problem with trading up in a draft like this is that you have to look past all the glitz and shining baubles at the top to the value in the middle. Let's say you moved CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson for the No. 8 and a player. Is that worth it for Neil Olshey? Both players have talent, and are already developing youngsters on a roster that's looking to make the next step in the playoffs. Does Terry Stotts need to spend more time developing a mid-lottery rookie with important regular season minutes? I'm not so sure.
If we're talking about a foreseeable move, there are two obvious ones. Portland can move their 2015 first rounder and cash or a player to Chicago or Phoenix. The Suns are likely to be involved in a trade on draft day at this point. They have 14, 18 and 27 and already made noise at the trade deadline this year when they said they would make a move for a star player. They're the most likely to be in a big trade or one where they sell off a pick completely, which they've done before (Rudy Fernandez).
Chicago is even more fun to look at. The Bulls own the No. 16 and 19 selections, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf is notoriously cheap come draft day. He once made John Paxson trade down from the No. 2 spot to save himself $750,000, losing LaMarcus Aldridge and three All-Star appearances in the process. Chicago is angling for Carmelo Anthony and post-lottery draft picks aren't something they need at the moment. Current GM Gar Forman is likely going to try and wrap Carlos Boozer in those two picks in order to move him, but Portland might be able to pry them away.
That leads us back to our first question: Would you trade for a first round pick? Sure. Why not? As we know, there are teams out there that will likely be offering their selections But there would have to be consideration at what the Blazers are giving up and, more likely, who wants what the Blazers have to offer. Olshey has proven to be crafty on draft day already, stealing away Robin Lopez last year as part of the trade that sent Tyreke Evans to New Orleans. If he can do the same this year, he could add another piece to the playoff puzzle.
Timmay!: Since I'm the guy who runs the real-time Blazer's Edge coverage of a Blazer-less draft night, it pains me to say this, but no, I wouldn't trade into this draft unless it's a "too good to be true" sweetheart deal. I suspect the Blazers would like to raise the average age of the bench, not lower it. But for example, if Portland was offered the 11th pick for Meyers Leonard, I'd hope they say ok, get the paperwork signed off as quickly as possible, then shrug and grin like Michael Jordan in the '92 playoffs (wait, too soon?).
Here are a few more examples of sweetheart deals, with the caveat of "only do the deal if there's actually a player on the board that you really like":
- Any first rounder for Allen Crabbe.
- A top 10 pick for CJ McCollum or Joel Freeland.
- A top 5 pick for Wesley Matthews ("Hi, is this the Utah Jazz? Do you miss Wes?"). But only if you've targeted a capable/cheaper 3-and-D replacement SG, and you can bear a year or two of possible rookie development.
- And,as previously discussed, I'd still consider a First-Pick-for-LaMarcus trade if the team was really convinced the The Next Big Thing is available.
None of these are realistic deals, of course, which is why I probably wouldn't trade into the draft. The Blazers are already a very good team; I don't see the point of trading into the draft unless there's a really good reason. It seems much more likely that they'll focus on non-draft trades.
Oh, and Damian Lillard is ours for many years to come, and nobody can have him. Don't bother asking.
Sam Tongue: The inherent questions about a move like that are almost insurmountable: How much risk will I gain when I give up a proven commodity? How much will I have to overpay for a draft pick (because the reality is, you will)? Will this player fit into what I'm trying to do? How does their contract fit into our long-term plan?
The reality is there's too many question marks with a draft pick. That's not to say taking a risk is a bad thing -- where Portland currently stands, though, it probably doesn't make much sense. If you can squeeze into a three-way trade that scores you a draft pick for not a whole lot (think a non-starter), then it's worth considering. However, I don't think you can do it at this point.
Chris Lucia: I don't think I'd trade any of the starters for a pick, except maybe Wesley Matthews, and it'd probably have to be in the high lottery range. I'd part with anyone else on the roster for the right lottery pick, though, and I'd take any first-round pick for some of the bench guys.
I'd certainly look at any potential trades into this year's draft on a case-by-case basis. If for some reason a team offers a top-15 pick for Joel Freeland, for example, I take the deal. If it's a pick in the 20s on the table for Will Barton I'd hesitate. The Blazers don't need any more young guys who require a good deal of development, which is probably what's available in the 20s. The veteran presence or a solid guy who's been in Stotts' system for a year or two are probably worth keeping around at that point.
Sagar Trika: I'd imagine that a trade would be an unpopular move by the public and I agree with that. As GM Neil Olshey stated in his exit interview, the team is in a win-now mode rather than an asset-collecting mode. A draft pick is an asset that will take time to develop, which would likely slow down the idea of winning within the next few years.
Also, while Portland may have young players and other assets, that may not be what a lottery team or mid-first round team is looking for. The whole idea for a trade revolves around what Portland has that other teams want, and unfortunately, there isn't much.
One idea, while highly unlikely, would be to send Meyers Leonard to Phoenix in exchange for the 27th pick in the draft. Phoenix is a team with the 14th, 18th, and 27th picks in this year's draft and they believe a shooting big man would fit well into their system. If what fans have heard coming out of practice is true, Leonard is a good shooter. The 27th pick would allow Portland to get a scorer to come off the bench, similar to Will Barton (I was looking strongly at UConn guard Shabazz Napier).
Ben Golliver: The two arguments against trading for a first rounder seem to be that it would come at too high of a price and that it would slow down the team's growth curve. I agree on the first point and totally disagree on the second. I would totally understand if the Blazers, after this past season, refused to trade one of their starters unless they were bowled over. It's quite possible that such a stance, by itself, would keep them from getting a quality first-round pick. If so, I guess so be it.
In terms of the growth cycle, though, let's not forget the impact Damian Lillard made from Day One, or the contributions that younger players are making for contenders around the league. Guys like Norris Cole, Cory Joseph, Reggie Jackson and Steven Adams all played good postseason minutes this year and/or last year year despite being early in their careers. There's also Kawhi freaking Leonard, who just won Finals MVP for the Spurs, outplaying LeBron James in Game 4, at 22 years old. Leonard was an impact guy on a contender last year, too. Imagine if the Spurs had fallen into the "We can't slow down our development" trap and stuck with George Hill rather than trading for Leonard on draft night in 2011. The Spurs' next decade would look a lot different, and they might not be holding a parade at the Riverwalk tomorrow.
What about you? Vote in the poll and weigh in below.