The franchise entered the May 16th lottery with the fifth-worst season record and came out with the third pick in what was considered a consensus three-player draft. No one was coming close to Victor Wembanyama at one. The second and third picks, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson, were talented enough to go first overall in other years.
At season’s end Cronin told the world he was going to be aggressive in building a contender around Damian Lillard this offseason. He was going to attempt to give the 32-year-old a team he could actually contend with after 11 years of only moderate playoff success.
In the moments after the Blazers won the third pick, the message changed slightly. Cronin told media:
“We’ll see, the market will tell, but I think three is significant. There’s going to be some really good players available at three that could be great for us or somebody else depending on how we approach this draft.”
The franchise was still going to explore trades, but the return was going to have to be huge.
Several players were bandied about in Trail Blazers trade rumors between the lottery and the actual draft.
Toronto Raptors pair Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby were interesting candidates. Siakam was expensive and posed fit issues with Jerami Grant. Anunoby had his own offensive limitations and had historically struggled to stay healthy, plus Toronto was rumored to be asking a fortune for him. Both were entering expiring contract years with Anunoby holding a 2024-25 player option.
There were whispers involving the New Orleans Pelicans and Zion Williamson, however the rumors now suggest that David Griffin was only offering draft picks and rotation players. That’s a hard no.
When it came down to it, Scoot Henderson’s value to Portland eclipsed that of Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, and Paul George, the other names attached to the Blazers in the deal factory.
Too Valuable to Part With
If the Blazers had landed the fourth, fifth or sixth pick in the lottery, they might have had an easier time making a deal. A high-mid-lottery pick would have put Portland in line to draft one of the Thompson twins, Anthony Black, Jarace Walker, Taylor Hendricks or Cason Wallace. All of them are interesting prospects but none necessarily carrying the ceiling of Henderson or Miller.
In this scenario Cronin would be free to trade away a young player with less upside for a veteran return. You might not trade the third pick for Towns, Siakam or Anunoby, but you definitely consider moving the sixth selection. It’s a more equitable and palatable transaction.
While the lottery was a great night for the Blazers, it made the quest for veteran talent that little bit harder. To give up on a prospect taken with the third pick for veteran talent of lesser value and ability would have been malpractice.
For those wondering whether I would have preferred the Blazers to come out of lottery night with lower pick. Absolutely not. Henderson is a tantalizing prospect that could very well deliver on said potential.
All I’m saying is that the Blazers rise up the draft order made it difficult for them to satisfy Lillard’s request for veteran help with that pick.
What happens now is up to Damian Lillard and whether he’s prepared to share a basketball court with Scoot Henderson. The Blazers still have avenues to improvement but the biggest asset they had is now set to play home games at the Moda Center next season, not in somebody else’s uniform.