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How the Trail Blazers Could Hunt for a Second-Round Pick

The Blazers don’t have their second-round pick, but there’s teams they could turn to in order to acquire one.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers will only have their first-round pick, slotted at No. 24 overall, in the 2018 NBA Draft. They could look at a wing like Chandler Hutchison, or a two-way guard like Jacob Evans. But as the second round has shown throughout the years, there’s value in later picks: Manu Ginobili, Paul Millsap, Draymond Green, or even Portland’s own 2012 second-rounder, Will Barton.

In February of 2017, ahead of the NBA Trade Deadline, the Blazers and Denver Nuggets made the infamous trade that sent Jusuf Nurkic to Portland.

Trail Blazers receive: Jusuf Nurkic, 2017 first-round pick from Memphis via Denver
Nuggets receive: Mason Plumlee, 2018 second-round pick

At this year’s trade deadline, Denver sent the pick to the Dallas Mavericks in a three-team trade involving the New York Knicks. As a result, the Mavericks have Portland’s No. 54 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Teams With Multiple Second-Round Picks

Several NBA teams have multiple second-round picks in 2018 as part of their wheeling and dealing. Having a collection of picks is a blessing and curse: a blessing because it allows multiple swings at a home-run prospect; a curse because some teams don’t have the time (or roster space) to commit to a group of rookies.

The Blazers faced this situation last year when they had three first-round picks but didn’t have enough roster space to take on three players, eventually packaging Nos. 15 and 20 to move up to No. 10. Here are the teams (and their picks) with an extra second-rounder to spare:

Who Might Be Willing to Trade a Second-Round Pick?

The 76ers are the most likely trade partner. First, they have the most second-round picks of any team. They’re also a team primed to compete in the Eastern Conference, likely looking to add veterans who can perform in the playoffs instead of rookies who will be buried on the bench come mid-April.

The Nets present another trade partner. While they’re set to pay DeMarre Carroll and Jeremy Lin about $28 million combined next year, those contracts are in their final year. And, currently, they’re only on the hook for Jarrett Allen’s $3.9 million in 2020-21 — barring a D’Angelo Russell extension — presenting a major reset for the franchise and an opportunity to persuade free agents on Brooklyn. The Nets sold off their future, setting themselves back years. They don’t need speculative second-round players today; the gaps in the roster are too big. They might prefer future players to fill in when they’d make more of a difference.

With Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams locked up until at least 2020-21, the Thunder can expect to compete for a playoff spot every year. Re-signing Paul George would make them playoff locks, and potential contenders, for years to come. So the Thunder don’t have time for their rookies to possibly pan out; they’ve opted for veterans like Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton to fill out their roster in the past. With the sour taste of a playoff loss still lingering, and the hope of keeping George, the Thunder could easily pass off second-round picks to chase veterans to boost a playoff run.

Why Would the Blazers Want a Second-Round Pick?

Portland is still caught up in the salary cap mess created by the summer of 2016, leaving few options for improvement. Dumping high-priced contracts would require taking on near-equal money (not really a dump at all but rather trading headaches for other headaches), or packaging assets just to mask the stench of a bad contract for a trade partner, which would be the ultimate gut punch because it’s a situation created only by themselves.

Thus, a second-round pick presents an opportunity to find a diamond in the rough, like a Ginobili or Green, and get an impact player who’s making near nothing to cover up for Portland’s not-so-impactful players making big bucks. Just last year the Golden State Warriors (who are paying Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Green) didn’t have a second-round pick, but they identified Jordan Bell as a must-have piece and they acquired him from the Chicago Bulls for $3.5 million. That’s the kind of smart move teams make with little flexibility.

According to Basketball Insiders, Portland still has $2.5 million in potential trade cash to spend after sending compensation to the Bulls in the Noah Vonleh trade earlier this year. Whether they trade dollars, minor future picks, or a player, there’s room to work there to acquire a second-rounder. If the Blazers want to move upward in the Western Conference, a smart, late draft choice could be what the cash-strapped franchise needs.