The 2018 NBA Draft is widely regarded as one of the best in recent years: heavy at the top, but with strong depth spreading down into the second round. The Portland Trail Blazers’ run to the 3rd seed in the Western Conference pushed them to the 24th pick in the draft order-- a good pick, but one without certainty of nabbing a starting-level player. The Blazers have been rumored to have interest in moving up in the draft, though they are certainly not alone in this desire. Which teams are the most likely for the Blazers to trade with in any draft pick swap scenario?
Realistic Blazers Assets:
· 24th pick in this draft
· All future 1st round picks
· CJ McCollum
· Mo Harkless
· Al-Farouq Aminu
· Caleb Swanigan
Teams Ahead of Them:
I think it’s fair to say that the Blazers don’t have realistic assets to trade into the top half of the lottery. Teams in that area are mostly in the middle of rebuilding, and so are still looking for young players and other high picks, not the later picks and the veterans on solid contracts that the Blazers can offer. While it’s possible that a team with a top-seven pick would move down for the 24th pick and future picks, it doesn’t seem all that likely, especially since the Blazers aren’t likely to be a bottom lottery team anytime soon.
While the Blazers could technically move up a spot or two in a minor trade to ensure they get someone they’re afraid could be taken right before their pick, I wouldn’t consider that truly “moving up”. That small a transaction could probably be covered with future 2nd round draft picks which, while important, are too easy a possibility in some ways to truly consider as trade options. Therefore, I’m only going to look at teams at least five picks ahead of the Blazers. This basically narrows down the pool of trade candidates to the teams with picks from 8 (Cavaliers) to 19 (Hawks).
Teams like the Knicks, Hornets, and Suns (9, 11, 16 respectively) are not particularly good right now, and desperately need young, cheap talent, so they seem unlikely candidates for a trade down. While the Wizards are better than that trio, they fall in the same boat of needing young talent and having several holes to fill, so I suspect they don’t trade down either. That leaves the Cavaliers (8), Sixers (10), Clippers (12 and 13), Nuggets (14), Bucks (17), Spurs (18), and Hawks (19).
The Clippers immediately jump out as a team with potential trade ability, as they have two picks (giving them flexibility to trade down with one) and are far enough above the Blazers that a trade up would be worth it. Something like Sam Dekker and the 13th pick for Caleb Swanigan, 24, and a protected future 1st round pick would work. The Blazers would get a playable large wing and their lottery pick while the Clippers accumulate future assets and take a shot on a young big man who didn’t play much his rookie season. A trade like this would probably only happen during the draft if the Clippers only really liked one of the players in their range while one of the Blazers’ favorites was still available.
The Sixers could really use CJ McCollum, but that trade would focus more on him than the draft picks being swapped, so doesn’t really count for the purposes of this exercise. The Sixers could also have some interest in Harkless and Aminu, with the matching salary being Jerryd Bayless’ expiring deal. If Mikal Bridges isn’t on the board at 10 and the Sixers want a wing, trading down to pick up one of the Blazers’ wings could be a possibility. But it seems unlikely that the Sixers would want to move down that much for either of those players. The same goes for the Cavaliers, who desperately need size, shooting, and defense from their wings, but also prize their 8th pick more than the services of an Aminu even if they are getting the 24th pick in return. In such a scenario, the Blazers would probably have to give up a future 1st round pick as well.
I think the two best fits for the Blazers to trade up are the Nuggets and Bucks. Both teams want to make the playoffs (more importantly, make noise in the playoffs) sooner rather than later, and they each need support on the wings. The Blazers would have to take back salary (Kenneth Faried as a bench big in case Jusuf Nurkic or Ed Davis walks, or Matthew Dellevadova as an overpriced backup point guard), I could see the Bucks or Nuggets willing to take a lower draft pick in exchange for more help now.
Ranking of Most Likely Trade Up Targets for Blazers:
What do you all think? Which team’s pick would you want to trade up for, and what other assets would you be willing to part with to obtain the higher pick?