What Would Be The Portland Trail Blazers’ Ideal Draft Day Outcome?

By REESE KUNZ, OREGON SPORTS NEWS

As the 2024 NBA Draft approaches less than a week away, teams are narrowing down their prospects to target. It’s supposedly one of the weakest draft classes in recent memory, with no apparent tiers of prospects; this could cause players projected in the top ten to slide toward the end of the lottery or even outside of it entirely.

How the lottery order turned out could cause an even more unpredictable draft day outcome. For instance, the teams selecting No. 4 through No. 8—the Spurs, Pistons, Hornets, Blazers, and Spurs (again)—all have similar roster needs. All four teams mentioned have a promising starting center between Victor Wembanyama, Jalen Duren, Mark Williams, and Deandre Ayton. As a result, this could cause someone like UConn center Donovan Clingan to fall on draft day.

Blazers Land Draft Day Steal At Pick No. 7

Clingan is the No. 3 overall prospect on ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony’s big board and would be tremendous value for the Blazers if he fell to No. 7. Portland also has called the Houston Rockets to potentially trade up to No. 3, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo! Sports. However, in this dream scenario, they’d be better off having Clingan fall to them at No. 7 and retaining any trade assets that would have to be involved. As an elite rim protector, the 7-foot-2 Clingan could also help compensate for the Blazers’ backcourt that is undersized and more offensive-minded.

Deandre Ayton had a solid finish to last season, but Clingan’s value in the mid-lottery would be too intriguing to pass up. It would also give the Blazers a chance to gauge the trade market for Ayton, who is owed the most on the team next season at $34 million. Trading Ayton would solve their financial issues and allow Portland to get under the luxury tax. Although selecting Clingan wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of “DominAyton” in Portland, it would provide them much more roster flexibility moving forward.

High-Upside Wings Fall To No. 14

The Blazers could find a real gem at pick No. 14, and it’s certainly a possibility that the player they select isn’t too far off from pick No. 7 on their rankings. In other words, wings they may be considering at No. 7, including Ron Holland and Cody Williams, could still be available for them to snag at No. 14. Both would be excellent high-upside selections if available.

Another player the Blazers should be thrilled to have on the board at No. 14 is Frenchman Tidjane Salaun. Similarly to Holland and Williams, Salaun could be a top-ten pick and is viewed as a “sleeper pick for the Spurs at No. 8 overall,” per Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype. Salaun is even more of a high-risk, high-reward prospect and would be a developmental project to take on. But the Blazers need to strongly consider these players in the draft and be patient with their rebuild.

Of those three prospects, Colorado freshman Cody Williams is the more intriguing prospect, with fewer question marks at this point in his young career. He also possesses elite potential similar to Holland and Salaun; Williams was projected to be the No. 1 overall pick earlier in the season. He has great positional size at 6 feet 8 inches and would provide the Blazers with much-needed versatility with his guard-like skillset, specifically his ballhandling. He would also provide long-term insurance for Jerami Grant, who clearly doesn’t fit into their rebuilding timeline at 30 years old and still owed over $100 million on his remaining contract.

Trail Blazers Move Up In The Draft

If the Blazers are firmly set on someone like Donovan Clingan as their franchise center moving forward, it could make sense to make an aggressive trade-up to get him. It ultimately depends on how high they are on Clingan relative to other prospects in that range. If there’s a year that wouldn’t have an absurdly high price to move up in the draft, this would be it. However, there should still be exciting prospects available at No. 7 despite the perceived weak draft class.

Rather than moving up to No. 3, the Blazers should be looking into trading to acquire an additional first-round pick. Jake Fischer reports that because the Suns lack draft capital, they could be a team interested in trading their No. 22 pick to move down in the draft for more assets. The Blazers could offer the Suns both second-round picks (No. 34 and No. 40) and additional assets if needed. Pick No. 22 could have some prospects that fall; teams picking right outside the lottery, like the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and Los Angeles Lakers, are in win-now mode and could be targeting prospects that can contribute immediately but may be lacking high upside as the trade-off.

If Portland made this move, they could target several prospects, including Carlton Carrington or Kel’el Ware. Because they desperately need more shooting, they will go with a high-upside wing in Miami’s Kyshawn George in this ideal scenario. He’s a versatile 6-foot-7 wing who shot 40.8 percent from the beyond the arc this season. Jonathan Givony has George ranked as his No. 20 prospect, writing, “The Swiss swingman could fill a coveted role in the NBA if he can put everything together with the late-blooming trajectory he’s on.”

Potential Depth Chart Following Ideal Draft

If the Blazers could somehow find a way to come out of the draft with Donovan Clingan at No. 7, Cody Williams at No. 14, and Kyshawn George at No. 22 without having to give up assets that sacrifice their future, their rebuilding trajectory would be significantly more promising. It remains to be seen what they decide to do this offseason in terms of who they trade to get under the luxury tax.

Assuming Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant aren’t part of their long-term rebuilding plans, the Blazers could potentially have a future depth chart along these lines:

PG: Scoot Henderson, Anfernee Simons, Dalano Banton

SG: Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Kyshawn George

SF: Shaedon Sharpe, Matisse Thybulle, Cody Williams, Kyshawn George

PF: Toumani Camara, Cody Williams, Jabari Walker, Kris Murray

C: Deandre Ayton, Donovan Clingan, Robert Williams III, Duop Reath

This ideal draft would address several glaring roster needs for Portland, adding more defense, shooting, versatility, and positional size, among other aspects. Let’s hope it plays out even somewhere close to this on draft day, with the first round on Wednesday, June 26th.

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