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Trail Blazers Conundrum with Third Pick Summarized

What the Blazers would like to do and what they can do may be two different things.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the Portland Trail Blazers won the third overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, their fans have been wrangling back and forth over the proper course of action. Players like Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller on rookie-scale contracts offer huge talent at a small price, near-perfect building blocks for a franchise in transition. But All-NBA guard Damian Lillard will be 33 when the new season starts. He needs help now, not four years down the road, let alone in a rookie’s prime.

This week Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic summarized the conundrum clearly and extensively [subscription required]. charting Portland’s path through their Scylla and Charybdis choices.

Vorkunov allowed that Portland’s cultural momentum trended towards moving the pick. He argued that two forces work against that play. The first is the obvious presence of talent at the top of this draft, increasing the power to make a move but also the opportunity cost of doing so:

But it isn’t that simple. The third overall pick affords the Blazers a chance to land a potential star for the future too. By jumping up from the fifth-overall lottery slot into the top three, Portland got the ability to add a player from the draft’s perceived second tier — Wembanyama in a strata all by himself, with Henderson and Miller below him. If Henderson is there at No. 3, the Blazers could land a player who has earned comparisons to Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose because of his dynamic athleticism and style of play. That, too, could be organization-changing.

The second issue is for what, or whom, they would move the selection. That one might be thornier, as the most-prized players in the NBA might not be available even for a Top 3 pick and whatever talent the Blazers could offer alongside.

If the Blazers do want to trade the pick, there’s also another dilemma. As more than one team executive put it: Who out there is worth trading the No. 3 pick for? Dealing the No. 3 pick would necessitate getting a player good enough to be worth that kind of high selection. It’s hard to say, as of now, if a player that good could be available. Executives struggled to think of someone who is both that good and possibly available to be had at the moment.That doesn’t mean things can’t change as teams get deeper into the offseason and, inevitably, the league finds itself in more chaos.

The article isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a great primer on the issue from the perspective of someone outside the Portland bubble and the executives cited in the story.