It was another season to forget for the Portland Trail Blazers as they missed the playoffs for a second consecutive year. While the Damian Lillard-led team improved by six wins from the previous season, they still finished 33-49. The Trail Blazers team that reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 feels so, so long go.
However, they earned a crucial rebuilding piece last week when the NBA Draft Lottery granted them the third-overall pick. While much of the focus of the NBA Draft has been presumptive first-overall pick Victor Wembanyama, this year's class is incredibly deep. Players like Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller could also be franchise-altering. Despite this, there are rumors that the Blazers might not stay at #3.
Blazers Could Trade #3 Pick For "Elite" Small Forward
There is a lot of debate about what could happen after the San Antonio Spurs presumably take Wembanyama first overall. In particular, the Blazers don't appear to be ready to accept their fate as a rebuilding team just yet. This news comes from The Athletic's John Hollinger. Hollinger's reporting contradicts news from other sources, such as ESPN's Jonathan Givony.
The Trail Blazers, who currently own the pick, will seek to trade out of the third position rather than select another young player. With Portland in "win it for Dame" mode and the Blazers desperate for playable wings (even presuming they re-sign Jerami Grant), speculation is already widespread that a package of the third pick and Anfernee Simons might be used to snag an elite small forward.
John Hollinger, The Athletic
So who counts as an elite small forward in the eyes of the Blazers? There is only a small group of small forwards who could be considered "elite". While that position includes the likes of LeBron, Durant, Kawhi, and Paul George, all these players come with baggage. Whether it's age, injury history, or a poison pill contract, they simply aren't worth the #3 pick. "All in for Dame" is not enough for a year of LeBron or a risk on an injured player. The same goes for the likes of Jimmy Butler and Jayson Tatum, who are elite but unlikely to be moved by their current teams as they are actively franchise keystones. So who does that leave? The Blazers could potentially move to trade for the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Brandon Ingram, or DeMar DeRozan. However, maybe it's time for the Blazers to accept their fate and rebuild with their best draft position since 2007.