Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin has fielded multiple questions since his team drafted 7th in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night. He’s justified selecting 18 year old unknown phenom Shaedon Sharpe with zero college experience. He’s explained why Portland went with Colorado Buffaloes forward Jabari Walker in the second round. He’s announced, by proxy, Summer League additions and made allusions to future plans. But as Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report tweeted today, Cronin has made one declaration loud and clear: the Trail Blazers are aiming at an NBA Championship.
Highkin quoted Cronin directly:
Joe Cronin: “The goal is to win a championship. It’s plain and simple for us. We’re not content just making the playoffs and winning a round or two. Our goal is to take this to the peak and push it to the limit.”
The elephant in the corner of the room for Portland’s new GM is franchise superstar Damian Lillard. The All-NBA point guard has completed ten seasons with the team. He made the Western Conference Finals in 2019, getting swept by the Golden State Warriors after a 53-win season. He has seen the second round twice, but not since 2016. Other than that, the Blazers have not been able to assemble a team around Lillard good enough to push him past the first round.
In addition to drafting Sharpe, the Blazers traded a future first-round pick for Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant last week. They are also expected to match any offers for young shooting guard Anfernee Simons—a restricted free agent—and to make a strong big to keep unrestricted free agent center Jusuf Nurkic.
Whether those moves, in aggregate, are enough to vault Portland into contention with the Warriors, Phoenix Suns, and other Western Conference powers remains to be seen. But Cronin is beginning his reign by signaling that if they don’t make it, it won’t be for lack of trying.