It’s the beginning of NBA Draft week and rumors are flying faster than they ever have before leading up to Thursday.
Questions we have asked for weeks and months will finally have an answer this week: Will the Blazers keep or trade the pick to acquire a star to surround Damian Lillard with, effectively keeping him with the franchise?
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst says the Blazers have been “aggressive” in trying to trade the pick.
“Portland is trying some pretty aggressive moves from what I’ve been able to glean. I have no idea how accurate everything is, but they are swinging. ...[A rebuild] is not the direction they’re going at all. That is not the intel I am having at all. If that’s being considered, it’s not being discussed outside the family.”
A name that’s been floating around in trade talks is New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, and Bill Simmons gave the biggest indicator that he could be move with what he said on his most recent podcast episode.
“The Zion thing is a real, real, real, subplot. I had somebody tell me yesterday—that I trust—that he will not be on [the Pelicans] by Thursday.”
It’s also important to note that the Blazers and Pelicans have worked together recently on another big trade. It was 16 months ago when the Blazers traded CJ McCollum to the Pelicans in a blockbuster deal ahead of the trade deadline.
There’s a pre-existing relationship between the Blazers and Pelicans’ front office after their deal two years ago sending CJ McCollum and Larry Nance to New Orleans. That helps grease wheels. Williamson is a big-swing, high-risk, high-reward play. This potential trade doesn’t solve the defensive issues with Lillard, but if the options are a discount with the Pelicans for Zion or paying through the entire nose for OG Anunoby, Zion seems like great value.
That being said, it seems like the Pelicans would be open to trading Zion if they can get in position to draft Scoot Henderson. However, there’s a good chance the Charlotte Hornets could pick Henderson at No. 2, and the Pelicans wouldn’t trade Williamson to get to No. 3 and take Brandon Miller, who plays a similar role to that of Brandon Ingram.
There could be an opportunity for the Blazers and Pelicans to make a three-team trade with the Hornets so that New Orleans can be ensured that it will get Henderson.
What would that potential deal look like?
The deal may be a rough draft, but the foundation of this potential deal makes sense for all parties involved.
The Blazers give up No. 3, but get Zion in return, effectively making Portland a playoff contender again in the Western Conference.
The Hornets have to sacrifice the No. 2 pick, but get No. 3, giving them a chance at Miller. They also clear his spot in the rotation by trading away an expensive, expiring contract in Gordon Hayward and they get Anfernee Simons as their guard to pair with LaMelo Ball and they move up 13 spots from No. 27 to 14, giving them another lottery pick to work with.
Then, the Pelicans get the most coveted player of the deal in Scoot Henderson, but get off Zion’s massive contract that they don’t wish to pay anymore.
However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and if you consider the fact that this trade would essentially keep Dame in Portland, it’s a win for all sides involved.