The Portland Trail Blazers enjoyed some good fortune in the NBA Draft Lottery, moving up to the third pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. While they missed out on landing Victor Wembanyama, Portland now boasts an excellent trade chip to help build around Damian Lillard.
Heading into the 2023 NBA offseason, Portland is expected to be one of the most aggressive teams in the Western Conference. With the Golden State Warriors facing uncertainty, the Los Angeles Lakers’ core getting older and the Memphis Grizzlies’ franchise star headed for a lengthy suspension, the conference will be more wide open next year.
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It’s part of the reason why the Trail Blazers seem prepared to take a win-now approach over resetting for the future. Portland could trade Lillard, making him the most coveted player available this summer, then build around the No. 3 overall pick. Instead, general manager Joe Cronin is poised to use his assets to help put All-Star talent around his franchise’s star.
According to John Hollinger of The Athletic, there is widespread speculation in the NBA that the Trail Blazers will be shopping a trade package of Anfernee Simons and the third overall pick to land an elite small forward.
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Hollinger doesn’t list any specific trade targets that could be on Portland’s radar. While reigning NBA MVP Joel Embiid has been floated as a potential trade target, it remains unlikely that he is dealt. However, there could be three potential targets that Portland would at least inquire about this summer.
Identifying 3 Portland Trail Blazers trade targets
Portland won’t have any success pursuing the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum or Brandon Ingram. Instead, the Trail Blazers will likely have to set their sights on second-tier targets who would be strong complements to Lillard.
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Fortunately for Portland, the value of the third overall pick is high and it could skyrocket if the Charlotte Hornets pass on Scoot Henderson.
- DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls – After trying to be a contender, the Chicago Bulls collapsed this past season and there are now long-term concerns regarding Lonzo Ball’s health. With this team now far away from contention, it’s the perfect time to part ways with a forward heading into his age-34 season. DeMar DeRozan has a close relationship with Lillard and he’s coming off a season where he shot 50.4% from the field with a .153 WS/48. DeRozan would be a win-now addition for the Portland Trail Blazers and they would likely push for additional assets in a deal, but pairing Lillard and DeRozan together would give Portland a fighting chance in the Western Conference.
- Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers – Sportsnaut’s Mark Medina reported that the Los Angeles Clippers want to move forward with Leonard and Paul George. However, the Clippers’ situation is chaotic and there’s an outside chance Ty Lue could be traded. If that comes to fruition, Portland should make a call to its Western Conference foe. While durability is an issue for George, he remains an elite player when healthy. He avered 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists last season with a 113 Defensive Rating and .114 WS/48. There’s no longer any beef between Lillard and George over the unforgettable 2019 playoff shot and they could thrive as teammates.
- Mikal Bridges, Brooklyn Nets – Acquired as part of the Kevin Durant trade, the Brooklyn Nets would likely prefer to keep Bridges and see if they can build around him. However, there could be a level of appeal to drafting Henderson or Brandon Miller with the third overall pick and resetting the roster for a brighter long-term future. Bridges proved in Brooklyn that he can be an effective scorer (26.1 PPG) and he remains outstanding defensively on the wing. While Bridges would cost the most to acquire, he’s also the best option for the Portland Trail Blazers.