Grading Portland Trail Blazers’ Deni Avdija Trade, Donovan Clingan Draft Pick


On a night many felt would lack fireworks thanks to a ho-hum draft class, the Portland Trail Blazers wasted no time getting the party started.

About an hour before Wednesday’s festivities, Portland closed a deal with the Washington Wizards, swapping Malcolm Brogdon and the No. 14 pick for 23-year-old forward Deni Avdija. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first with the report.

Between the pre-draft trade and Portland’s No. 7 pick looking like a potential steal, Round 1 went about as well for the Blazers as it could have.

With one round down and one left on Thursday, let’s break out the red pen and grade the action so far.

The Trade

Entering the draft, which annually marks the unofficial start of trade season, Avdija had become a quiet target for teams. His value seemed at an all-time high after posting career-bests in points (14.7), rebounds (7.2), assists (3.8), and shooting (50.6 FG% and 37.4 3PT%), and it’s felt as if someone would strike at some point.

As it turned out, Joe Cronin and his moleskin journal were the ones lurking all along.

Despite Avdija’s value being at its highest, nothing about this feels like Portland overpaid. Malcolm Brogdon was always meant to be flipped for a future playable or tradable asset. And that’s precisely what Avdija is.

Still just 23, Avdija came into the league as a lanky 6’9” defender, but he’s added a more consistent, reliable offensive game, especially over the past year. He’s a young piece who not only fits a need but could develop into a core cog on the team’s current timeline. And his contract is as team-friendly as it gets. He’s locked into his deal through the 2027-28 campaign (his age 26-27 season), a year in which he’ll make south of $12 million.

Had the Blazers held onto No. 14 (and looked to move Brogdon in a separate deal later), Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht would’ve been the most logical choice. But after watching Knecht, 23, slip to the Lakers at No. 17, it’s difficult to imagine he or anyone else would’ve been better than Avdija at this spot.

This trade is a win for the Blazers.

It deserves a total A.

No. 7 Pick

For much of the run-up to the draft, it felt like UConn’s Donovan Clingan would only be gettable for Portland in a trade-up scenario. It’s why when word leaked that Memphis was trying to move up from No. 9 to No. 6, it felt like the Blazers would fall one spot short of arguably their most ideal fit.

As it turned out, the Hornets held onto No. 6, selecting the third Frenchman of the night in Tidjane Salaun, leaving the 7’2” center for the taking.

This is a huge win for the Blazers. And there’s no way to downplay that.

At No. 7, the Blazers know they aren’t getting an instant star, whether they’d taken Clingan, Colorado’s Cody Williams, or Tennessee’s Dalton Knecht. But in Clingan, Portland lands maybe the safest pick in the draft—a proven winner with size, rim protection, an ability to finish, and a highly underrated passing skill that should be amplified at the NBA level.

This move also speaks to league trends. For as much as small-ball defined recent eras, the NBA appears to be going big, and there’s no better player in this class to help you keep up.

Of course, having Clingan and that size is especially promising for Scoot Henderson. We know Scoot can score in bunches, but his ability to create for others may be what his future hinges on, and having Clingan’s soft hands to dump the ball off to at the cup can’t be ignored. Neither can the center’s shot-blocking if Scoot ever struggles to stay in front of his man. And, again, neither can the fact that Clingan doesn’t require so many touches that you risk stunting the growth of the backcourt.

This grade is an A. But of course, no draft-day grade is ever complete until we see the prospect hit the court, gel with his teammates and prove the general manager right.

We know in practice that it will be years before we see how this pick really turns out. That takes time. But today?

Well, today sure feels like a great day to be a Blazer.

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