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Who the Blazers Draft and Who They Trade

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Portland has plenty of draft picks but few clear options.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NBA Draft commences this evening and observers are waiting with baited breath to see how the Portland Trail Blazers will handle their three draft picks. Between selections and potential trades, the Blazers will have a plethora of options. As anyone who’s ever eaten at a buffet can tell you, having a wide range of choices doesn’t guarantee that any of them will be good for you. That’s our topic for this edition of the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

The Draft

Ok Dave, you played coy for weeks. Who do we take with the picks? Give us your best shot.


First, you should read the collective wisdom of the Blazer’s Edge roundtable crew, as they answered this question several times over yesterday, probably better than I will.

Portland is in the odd position of being a not-quite-good-enough team holding not-quite-good-enough draft picks. The top tiers of this draft run 9-10 players deep. The Blazers hold picks 15, 20, and 26. Unless something goes wonky, no player with a high probability of improving them immediately is going to fall to those positions. If a legit player slips to 10 or 11, they need to be on the phone offering multiple picks for the surer thing. The current draftees will fill the final three open spots on their roster. It’d be better to have one guy they love and a couple undrafted players on minimum deals than having three so-so or speculative players, even if they are on rookie contracts.

But let’s assume Portland can’t move up. I’ve maintained from the start that small forward is the way to go with the 15th pick. Nothing I’ve seen since has changed my mind.

The Blazers have a history of coveting two types of young players: freakish athletes and smart scorers. OG Anunoby from Indiana is the athlete, Justin Jackson from North Carolina is the scorer with brains.

Here are the catches:

  • The Blazers tend to draft the offensive players themselves, then pick over other teams’ leftovers for the athletes.
  • Anunoby may be available with a later pick. Some mocks also have Jackson slipping. Either might be a reach at 15.

Personally, I think Anunoby could be the more interesting of the two. As Dan Marang and I discussed in the most recent edition of the Blazer’s Edge Podcast, OG reminding people of Al-Farouq Aminu may not be all bad. Going younger and cheaper with an athletic, defensive-minded forward would allow Portland the freedom to trade the more expensive version without losing as much. But I’m guessing the Blazers would go with Jackson first.

I also think there’s a possibility that the Blazers try to put muscle on Texas center Jarrett Allen’s frame. With Jusuf Nurkic in the fold they can afford to bring him along slowly.

John Collins could entice them with his scoring ability but he’s not long and he’s post-reliant, both of which scare me.

I’m also scared of Luke Kennard on this team; I’d hope they’d pass on him even if he’s available.

The only other name that floats my boat, a candidate for a later pick, would be Bam Adebayo. He’s another awesome athlete and he’s huge on the offensive glass.

When draft season started, I posited that the Blazers would use Pick 15 then try to trade the lower picks with incumbent players in order to shed salary. Looking at the board now, I’d alter the strategy slightly. I think I’d try to move 15 and 26, either up to a higher selection or out to save money. At 20 I’d look for Anunoby or Adebayo, take my athlete prospect, and call it a day.

But that might change when we consider...

The Trades

Hi Dave,

Hope you can crowbar this Q in before the Draft.

Q: Of the Blazers 4 bloated salaries (Harkless, Leonard, Turner, Crabbe), and assuming the reports of the Blazers dumping salaries in lieu of taking players, which 2 would you discard?


Palm Harbor, FL

The issue isn’t as much who the Blazers should get rid of as who the league would actually want.

You could make a serious argument for trading any or all of the quartet you’ve named. (Aminu should be in there too, by the way.) I love Evan Turner’s game but he doesn’t fit the backcourt here. Meyers Leonard needs a fresh start. Allen Crabbe still has potential but he makes a fortune. Moe Harkless can fill any number of roles for the Blazers but he’s not getting minutes.

The problem is, none of them have serious trade value. Leonard could entice because of his height and shooting potential. The rest are well-paid mush...not bad but not terribly distinct from any number of other players. The more intriguing of them also make the most money, numbing interest.

In a dream world, the best move for Portland would be shedding the most expensive players. Crabbe and Turner will make $36.5 million between them next year. That’s a lot of cheddar. If they drafted an offensive player making $3.5 million per year to replace the mismatched shooting guards, losing Crabbe and Turner might not hurt.

In reality I don’t think Turner can be moved yet. Therefore I’d suggest going halfway, trading Crabbe and Leonard. The Blazers would still save a bundle and they could draft a back-up center or power forward to take Leonard’s spot.

This strategy still has problems, though. The Blazers don’t really get ahead. They wouldn’t gain more talent. They wouldn’t gain usable cap space. They’d get themselves out of the Mariana Trench of salary hell into a more habitable zone, but they’d be treading water at best. They’d have to take salary back in return for Crabbe and Leonard. They’d want to extend Nurkic down the road. Even spending draft picks to dump contracts wouldn’t lead to that much aggregate salary off the books.

The Conclusion

Lump all of this together and the Blazers end up trading away Crabbe, Leonard, and two draft picks. In return they’d get to select one player, save $28 million minus whatever salaries they took on in return, get a couple short-term rental veterans coming back in trade, and still wouldn’t end up with any usable cap space.


I can probably improve the scenario by saying they manage to keep the 15th pick, Jackson falls to them, and his offense helps replace the departing Crabbe and Leonard. Jackson, Anunoby or Adebayo, and trading away big salaries is a scenario I could live with, all things considered. I don’t like it, but given the circumstances I’d do it.

The Question

Even if we suppose the Blazers get the ideal, this scenario still isn’t pretty. The future doesn’t look much brighter, just a little less crazy.

Normally I’d find a better solution, but there might not be any. It shows you how narrow of a needle they need to thread to change their fortunes with a single draft and a couple trades.

But maybe you can come up with a better one. Without bringing in less realistic options like Paul George or Kevin Love, what would your comprehensive draft/trade strategy be and how much would the Blazers really gain or save by it? Chew on that as you peruse our draft coverage throughout the day.

Need to know who’s who? Check out our 2017 Draft Profiles. Plus stay tuned for breaking news, trade rumors, and all of the conversation surrounding draft night as the big moment approaches. One thing we know for sure: this will not be dull!

—Dave / @Blazersedge / @DaveDeckard