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Trail Blazers Receiving Good Marks for Damian Lillard Trade

Joe Cronin’s handiwork nets B’s and A’s from pundits.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers trading Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic in a three-team deal for Deandre Ayton, Jrue Holiday and additional picks and players gave the NBA media the biggest trade of the offseason to grade.

If you want a good rundown of grades, Alex Tam of SBLiveOR tweeted a good rundown. Most national publications fell in the “B” range with a couple of “A’s” and an incomplete rounding out the list. Here’s how some other publications and personalities assessed Portland’s return on the deal.

Channing Frye Gives Blazers a Firm ‘A’

Former Blazer Channing Frye took to Twitter to laud Blazers general manager Joe Cronin on what his patience yielded in return for his franchise player and valued center:

saying Portland got anything less than a A is flat out wrong

1.They now can focus on the future

2. sent Dame to a contender

3. They got a young athletic center who has finals experience to go with Scoot, sharpe, and Simmons

4. They still have Jrue who has huge value

Should Portland decide to keep Holiday, the reigning All-Star would solve a bevy of problems for the perimeter defense while approximating Lillard’s playmaking and three-point efficiency.

Giving Lillard the chance to compete for a championship in Milwaukee shows respect to a player who produced big-game moments in the playoffs and remained loyal to the franchise for over a decade.

James Herbert Thinks Portland Lost the Trade

CBS reporter James Herbert sees the Bucks as having gotten the better end of the deal, giving the Bucks and Suns a B-plus as opposed to a B for the Blazers:

Ideally, Portland will be the perfect place for him — there’s room for him to expand his offensive game, and, if he can consistently bring the defensive scheme versatility that he had during his most productive stints in Phoenix, then the former No. 1 overall pick can get his career back on track

A major flaw that Portland had in the 2022-23 season was their inside presence on both ends as well as turnovers. Blazers players consistently fumbled passes which led to fast break opportunities heading the other way.

Ayton, 25, is one of the best pick-and-roll centers in basketball with great hands in the paint. Ayton finished second only to Philadelphia 76ers MVP center Joel Embiid with 5.8 points in the screen-and-roll last year, giving Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson a big that is good for finishes off of dump-offs.

Bleacher Report Loves Portland’s Future in the Draft

First round pick swaps in 2028 and 2030 as well as a guaranteed first round pick in 2029 gives the Blazers assets that can materialize into star talent or be capitalized in future trades, Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report affirms.

No, this return doesn’t really have a surefire, blue-chip prospect. Deandre Ayton is 25 and has never really been close to All-Star consideration. Toumani Camara is a 23-year-old rookie who was taken at the end of the second round of the draft. And Jrue Holiday, of course, is nowhere near the rebuilding Blazers’ developmental timeline. Portland is reportedly (and unsurprisingly) looking to redirect him to another team.

But this deal unloads Jusuf Nurkić’s and Lillard’s contracts, clears rotational minutes for Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons and keeps the door open for more assets. Holiday was a borderline top-20 player last season. He can still help a contender.

The biggest win for the Blazers, though, is those picks.

Bailey went on to note that Lillard will be advanced in age by the time those picks come to fruition, meaning that Holiday serves as a great piece in the short term while Portland has flexibility to assess upcoming talent or parlay the selections for more star talent.

We’ll have to wait a couple more years before the official rankings for the classes of 2028 and beyond are scouted, but the first round always produces top talent which can either further advance a contending Blazers team or help establish a rebuild depending on where the franchise stands by then.