Easiest question of the summer. Or maybe not! What should [the Blazers] do with their 3 draft picks? I’ll take the answer off air. Thanks!
Ahhhh...now you’re taking me back to the early days of “The Fan” when Sports Talk first became a thing. Mike Parker... Greg Robinson... later Mychal Thompson... good stuff there! Except is it “off air” or “on air”? People seemed to mix those up a lot.
In any case, we’ll be discussing the answer to your question between now and June 22nd...five solid weeks of prospect previews and debate over the 0-3 new faces who will don Portland uniforms next fall because of those picks.
Since you’re asking my opinion, I maintain that the Blazers pretty much have to trade away one or more of their selections. They only have three salary slots available. Nobody will cry too much over losing Pat Connaughton and Tim Quarterman along with Festus Ezeli to make room for new blood, but no matter what anybody says, three things in life remain true:
- Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.
- Don’t respond when someone says, “Under there!” out of context.
- The second half of the draft is always a crap shoot.
Odds are low that any given player the Blazers select will turn out to be a significant contributor down the road. The chances of three draftees developing simultaneously are even smaller. The chances of them doing so in coordinated fashion soon enough to help the Blazers in their current timeline are infinitesimal. If this were 2012, two of the picks were in the lottery, and endless time developmental time yawned before them it’d be a different story. No such luck.
As you know if you’ve read here for more than 10 seconds, the Blazers will be paying 3-4 times the fare for their rookies because of the luxury tax. When rookie deals start looking like mid-level exceptions and mid-level exceptions start looking like you’re paying stars, something has got to give. The Blazers need to make trades to restore sanity. Draft picks are the best carrot to get other teams to bite on the paid-too-much-and under-performing salad. If another team wants a rookie to accompany a medium-high salary, the Blazers probably can’t say no...especially with the surfeit of both on the roster.
Pick consolidation would provide a partial solution to both problems. Portland wouldn’t avoid the salary hit but at least they’d have more talent (and theoretically a higher chance of success) bundled into a single player instead of spread among three. The trick is getting such a deal done. Theoretically the Blazers could court 29 teams to exchange established players with. Moving up in the draft limits trade partners to the 3-5 teams holding picks in the feasible target area. The Blazers don’t have a ton of incumbent, salary-sensible talent to sweeten a deal and widen that range either. Maybe the Mavericks, Kings, or Hornets will be looking for a veteran-draft pick combo? Cross fingers.
Any way you slice it, Portland using all three picks then keeping all three draftees seems like a stretch...with the obvious caveat that they could keep the rookies but trade players around them to obtain cap relief and free up minutes for player development. But again, waiting 4-5 years for players to reach their primes doesn’t make a ton of sense when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will be into their 30’s by then, with expiring contracts to boot.
Keep watching over the next few weeks as we cover specific targets at Portland’s various draft levels (Hint: think small forwards like Og Anunoby or Justin Jackson with the high pick) plus one or two sneaker possibilities if the Blazers do trade up.
Until then, what would you do if you were Portland’s GM? Does it make sense to on-board a trio of rookies, do you leverage picks into a higher selection or salary relief, or do you have a different idea altogether? Let us know your preliminary thoughts below.
Keep those Mailbag questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org!