How Trail Blazers Can Unlock Draft Picks to Make Blockbuster Trade
Portland wants to go all-in for a star. How can they trade future picks? It's complicated.
Joe Cronin has made no secret of his plan this summer to make the kind of splashy star acquisition that would vault the Trail Blazers from the lottery team they were the past two years into the contending conversation.
Over the next few months, the Blazers—and the rest of the league—will get a better idea of which of those types of players are available in trades. One thing's for sure: no matter who it is they target (I have some guesses, but they're just guesses at this point), it's a lot easier to get that kind of trade done if you have draft capital to play with.
Last summer's three blockbuster trades all involved significant picks changing hands. Utah got four first-round picks plus a swap from Minnesota for Rudy Gobert and three firsts and two swaps from Cleveland for Donovan Mitchell, while San Antonio got three first-rounders plus a swap from Atlanta for Dejounte Murray. At the deadline, Phoenix sent Brooklyn four first-round picks plus a swap and two second-rounders for Kevin Durant.
That's the market for those sorts of trades these days, and the Blazers have some work to do to get there. In the summer of 2021, then-general manager Neil Olshey traded a lottery-protected first-rounder to Chicago along with Derrick Jones Jr. as part of the three-team deal that sent Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland and Larry Nance Jr. to Portland. The lottery protections on that pick last through 2028, at which point it becomes a second-rounder, and the Blazers are limited in how they can trade picks until it conveys.
It is possible for Portland to work out an arrangement with Chicago to send them another asset as incentive to change or lift those protections, and it's something they've already discussed.
"Chicago and I talked during pretty much every transaction window," Cronin said in February at his post-trade deadline media availability. "'Hey, if it ever becomes necessary, would you be open to this?' We kind of laid a real light foundation of, 'We'll call you if things heat up.' That kind of thing, but basically trying to tee that up in case we have to hurry. It's negotiable, it's whatever we work out."
There are many different ways they could resolve the situation. It could be very simple, or it could get complicated.