The Portland Trail Blazers are sitting pretty in the 2023 NBA Draft. They don’t have the #1 overall pick and Victor Wembanyama, but their third-overall selection is expected to draw interest on the trade market. Portland is hoping for an accomplished star, but as Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report pointed out in an article about potential draft trades today, the Blazers have room to get creative.
Running down interesting, though speculative, deals across the league Buckley suggests a pair of Portland assets—the third pick and shooting guard Anfernee Simons—might net a smorgasbord of players in return rather than a singular star.
First, Buckley posits a deal between the Blazers and Orlando Magic, sending Simons and #3 for center Wendell Carter, Jr., guard Gary Harris, plus the 6th and 11th picks in the draft.
While Blazers fans are surely dreaming of bigger names than those listed here, Portland doesn’t appear one player away from climbing the standings. Adding a pair of plug-and-play veterans in Carter and Harris would deepen this roster, and the club could explore additional opportunities by moving down the board.
Carter is a rock-solid center who can anchor the defensive end and juice the offense as a screen-setter, finisher and ball-mover. Harris is a top-shelf on-ball defender who just buried 43.1 percent of his long-range looks. Both would be effortless fits alongside Lillard (and, ideally, Jerami Grant).
Then, as an additional flex, Buckley suggests the Blazers turn around the #6 pick—along with center Jusuf Nurkic and guard Keon Johnson—to the San Antonio Spurs for guard Keldon Johnson.
After adding two potential starters by flipping the No. 3 pick, Portland could gain a third by luring Keldon Johnson away from the Spurs.
On the surface, Johnson looks a member of San Antonio’s core as a 23-year-old who just averaged 22 points per game. Yet, he may not be guaranteed a starting spot going forward, and after backtracking as an outside shooter (32.9 percent, down from 39.8), it’s possible he’s an inside-the-arc scoring specialist.
The Blazers are better positioned to make the most of him, since they’d have (at least) Lillard and (assuming he re-signs) Grant ahead of Johnson on the offensive pecking order. And should Portland ever need to pull the plug on the idea of winning big with Lillard, Johnson is young enough to keep around (ditto for Wendell Carter Jr. from our previous trade at No. 3).
All totaled, the Blazers give up the #3 pick, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, and Keon Johnson. They receive Wendell Carter, Jr. Keldon Johnson, Gary Harris, and the #11 pick.
Would that combination of moves sway you? Share in the comments below.