5 Biggest Questions For Portland Trail Blazers After 2024 NBA Draft


The NBA has a way of feeling like a “what have you done for me lately?” league. Good vibes of yesteryear fade quickly once tomorrow’s vision becomes unclear, which is why, fair or not, it may be apt to think about the Association differently and to proceed with a new question in mind.

“What will you do next?”

Following what can only be described as a successful 2024 NBA Draft for the Portland Trail Blazers, general manager Joe Cronin knows the “process” is still very much ongoing. Landing both Deni Avdija by trade and Donovan Clingan in Round 1 helped push the franchise forward with a purpose.

But paving this path doesn’t just require building up. Because the end of the teardown is likely yet to come. And there are (at least) five major questions still to answer with the draft now behind us.

Where Does Deandre Ayton Fit with Clingan?

When Clingan slipped to No. 7, the 7’2”, two-time national champion became Portland’s most obvious pick, unless you were mile-high on Colorado’s Cody Williams. Clingan made sense, with the Blazers desperate for defense. And they were also hopeful for another dump-off option at the rim for Scoot Henderson.

Clingan also slightly complicates the future of the incumbent Blazers centers.

Starting with Deandre Ayton, the easiest question to answer is if D.A. is still the starter.

As long as Ayton’s on the roster for Day 1 of the 2024-25 season, the answer should be an easy yes, while Clingan settles into the pace and physicality of the NBA.

Although it took Ayton some time to get right in Portland, he eventually started to turn things around. He looked more comfortable on offense by the end of the year. That improvement (and the fact that vibes around him seem generally better than once reported) earned him another shot to get it right with Scoot, particularly, and the starting backcourt.

At the same time, Ayton’s essentially entering a tryout of a year against another prized big man in Clingan. And that’s not just for the starting position because if it ever becomes painfully clear that Clingan should start, the Blazers would be wise to test Ayton’s trade market before relegation to the bench.

Ayton can be a starter in this league and be as productive as it gets in the mid-range. But how long he’s a starter with Portland is in question. And the answer could hinge upon a strong, consistent opening to the next season.

What About Jerami Grant? 

In truth, Ayton isn’t the only Blazers center whose future looks murky. But when it comes to Robert Williams III, you can more confidently assume Cronin will sell low to get off of a player whose injuries have defined his young career. And for Duop Reath, keeping him as a power forward-center flex who spreads the floor makes sense for depth at the position.

It’s when you shift down in size a bit and hit Jerami Grant that the next obvious question presents itself.

In truth, if the Blazers were closer to sniffing the postseason, Grant would be an obvious core piece. After all, that was his intended role alongside Damian Lillard (and, ideally, another future star).

Grant’s offensive bag is deep enough that he can take pressure off the backcourt. And his contract, although currently acting as Portland’s main cap culprit, will look downright team-friendly-ish if he’s on a contender in a couple of years. That’s why teams like the Dallas Mavericks have been rumored to have eyes for the 30-year-old forward.

But again, it goes without saying that the Blazers aren’t contending any time soon, and they’re likely outside the sniff zone of the 2025 postseason.

Keeping Grant around at this point would be mostly for the locker room vibes. So, if the right offer comes along, clearing the way for Toumani Camara and Jabari Walker might be the play.

Does Deni Avdija Make Certain Players Expendable? 

Speaking of Camara and Walker, those two appeared to co-star in a quiet (and I’m sure friendly) competition for minutes last season. You could put Kris Murray into that category, too, but the former two were particularly fun to watch and looked primed to battle for rotation time in 2024-25.

Now, with the addition of Avdija to the roster, you have to wonder if one of Camara, 24, or Walker, 21, becomes expendable. And right away, you’d wonder if Jabari is the more likely to be moved.

To be clear, I don’t think Portland is in a position where it has no choice and must trade one of the two. The team is still in talent- and asset-collection mode, which it’s done well, using both Camara and Avdija as post-Lillard examples. But Avdija, as a plus-defender and improving rebounder, could threaten to take minutes from previous “projects.” It’s a storyline worth watching.

Where Does Anfernee Simons Fit In Going Forward? 

Anfernee Simons has been a popular name to include in hypothetical trades for a while now, without much real smoke behind the rumors.

But a couple of years ago, he was considered a potential chip to be included in a blockbuster for Damian Lillard’s next co-star. And then, when Lillard was traded, the question became whether Simons made sense as the long-term starter over Shaedon Sharpe, whose mystery-box ceiling seems too tempting to ignore.

At this point, the Simons noise will only get louder. And while this isn’t precisely “smoke” itself, Cronin leaving Simons’ name out of his post-draft statement while speaking to building around Shaedon and Scoot creates an uncomfortably large elephant in the room.

I wouldn’t bet on Simons being traded this summer. But before February’s trade deadline? That might be a different story.

Is Chauncey Billups The Man for THIS Future?

Remember how Ayton is going into a tryout season? Apply that doubly to Chauncey Billups.

Through Billups’ young tenure with the franchise, winning has been tough to come by, and the fanbase has seemed, at least relatively, split on how much he deserves the blame. But for the most part, reasonable minds can agree he’s been dealt a tough hand.

Odds are that Billups will finish out 2024-25 facing an evaluation, and he’ll be given a chance to lay out his vision under the current plan. It seems a bit cruel, after all, to gift a young coach a prized young 7’2” center and then rip him away from the chance to, ya know, coach.

But if things go south quickly and his last season under contract starts out rough, the roster might not be the only thing seeing a shakeup at February’s trade deadline.

Billups’ seat shouldn’t be too hot entering 2024-25. But keep an eye on how hot it gets if the Blazers stumble to start the year.

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