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Joe Cronin becomes permanent Portland Trail Blazers general manager ahead of crucial offseason

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Cronin has spent over 16 years in the Portland Trail Blazers organization. Promoted to assistant general manager back in 2021, he took over for general manager Neil Olshey on an interim basis back in December after the latter was fired.

Following an active NBA trade deadline back in February, most figured that Cronin would keep the GM job on a full-time basis for the downtrodden Blazers.

That’s now come to fruition. The Blazers announced on Tuesday that Cronin has been elevated to its general manager position and has signed a four-year contract.

“I would like to thank Jody and Bert for this opportunity and a long list of other incredible people that have put their faith and trust in me not only over the last six months, but the last 16 years. My focus has always been creating a championship team and culture that players, coaches, and staff want to be a part of. I look forward to continuing that focus with the vision that Chauncey, Dewayne, and I share while unifying our business and basketball operations on and off the court.”

Joe Cronin in press release, via the Blazers’ official website

This decision comes with Portland facing a franchise-altering offseason following an ugly 55-loss 2021-22 campaign. With Damian Lillard sidelined, the Blazers lost 21 of their final 23 games.

For his part, Cronin dealt the likes of C.J. McCollum, Norman Powell, Robert Covington and Larry Nance Jr. ahead of the February 10 NBA trade deadline. This was a clear indication that Portland intended to keep him long-term. It also opened up a ton of avenues for Cronin to help build around Dame moving forward into the summer.

Related: 2022 NBA mock draft

Joe Cronin will have his hands full in first offseason as Portland Trail Blazers GM

joe cronin promoted to portland trail blazers gm
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Despite rumors of a potential Damian Lillard trade over the past calendar year, it seems likely that he’ll return to the Pacific Northwest for an 11th season. Lillard is among the most-loyal players in the NBA and has in the past pushed back against forming a super-team elsewhere.

If that is indeed the case, Portland’s goal will have to be to find a supporting cast that can elevate this team to championship contention. Prior to the 2021-22 campaign, Lillard-led Blazers squads had earned a playoff appearance eight consecutive years — only to fail to reach the Confernce Finals all but one time.

There’s definitely good news on this front. By virtue of the moves he made back in February, Joe Cronin has a ton of avenues to upgrade the roster behind Dame.

That includes what’s projected to be a top-eight pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, lottery results pending. Portland also boasts a massive $21 million trade exception that could be used in concert with draft picks to acquire another star behind Lillard.

In addition to this, Cronin will have to look into extending both Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little — two potential building blocks.

In particular, Simons played exceedingly well down the stretch before suffering a season-ending left knee injury. The 23-year-old guard was just brilliant in his final 27 games — averaging 23.4 points and 5.8 assists on 42% shooting from distance.

Even then, the Lillard story will be something to watch this summer. He’s not going to push for a trade. But would be open to one if the Blazers opt to go in that direction.

“If they came to me and they wanted to trade me—I’m not going to fight them on wanting to trade me. I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted. But I don’t think that’s the case,” Lillard said back in April.

It’s all going to be about the Blazers’ decision-making process under Joe Cronin this summe. We’re intrigued to see what he does with the entire organization firmly behind him.

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