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Portland Trail Blazers 2023-24 Offseason Primer

(Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

The Blazers didn’t win this year’s lottery but had the good fortune of landing the third overall selection while having the fifth-best odds. This increases their leverage in trade negotiations significantly considering the drop-off in talent after the third pick. As of now, the consensus No. 2 and 3 best players are Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller, both of whom would be considered top selections in many recent draft classes.

In the event there is no deal, the Blazers are still in a great spot by selecting either player. Henderson, a 6-foot-2 guard, would be considered the successor to Lillard and would have a lot to gain under his mentorship. Miller, a 6-foot-9 forward, would be an excellent fit in Portland’s rotation now considering their lack of options at the three.

It appears that the team will explore the trade market with the third overall selection to acquire a second All-Star, though. However, a deal is easier said than done because they lack large tradeable salaries. They may have to part with both Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic along with the draft pick to match salaries for an All-Star.

What makes a trade even more complicated is the fact that they also owe the Bulls their 2024 first-round pick, which is lottery protected through 2028. They would need to negotiate with Chicago to reduce or eliminate the protection on the pick if they want to trade multiple additional future first-round picks in a subsequent move.

What could ultimately determine whether the Blazers trade the pick or not is the overall pool of potentially available players. There may not be any one single player available worth the third overall pick who is impactful enough to get Portland where they want to be. Some of the best players that are clearly worth moving the selection likely aren’t available.

For example, one of the highest-end players the Blazers could pursue is Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota could be looking at a tax crunch after next season with Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels set to earn lucrative extensions. Towns could be the casualty and a return featuring Henderson would add a great complementary piece to Edwards while balancing their books.

Jaylen Brown is now eligible to sign a supermax extension with the Celtics after earning All-NBA honors. If he weren’t to sign it this summer that would likely indicate he’s open to looking for a new home. The Celtics would likely pursue a trade package that maximizes their title window, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to net a potential future cornerstone with the third overall pick as well as multiple draft picks.

Then there’s a dropoff for the type of player they could realistically target. Chicago seems like a logical trade candidate if they decide to take a step back and move Zach LaVine. But considering the Blazers also need to likely send back Simons just to match salaries, they lose the value proposition. At this point, it’s fair to ask if the Blazers are better off having Henderson or Miller on his rookie contract and Simons earning $25 million annually than LaVine on a maximum contract.

The Raptors are another team that seems like an obvious trade partner. They are facing an inevitable tax crunch with all six of their top players due for new contracts soon. Pascal Siakam is entering the final year of his contract where he’s set to earn $37.9 million and could earn more on his next deal. Acquiring the third overall selection for Siakam would be a great return to capitalize on his recent strong play while giving Scottie Barnes a long-term partner in the backcourt.

None of these frameworks are perfect, so hopefully more possibilities open up for the Blazers by the time we get to the draft. All eyes will be on Lillard’s future if they can’t find a trade that significantly improves the roster. There is an equally if not stronger case for the Blazers to trade Lillard for draft equity and prospects and build around the third overall selection and Shaedon Sharpe.

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