The present and future fortunes of the Portland Trail Blazers will bounce around in a glass drum in the form of ping pong balls during Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery and ultimately determine where their pick will fall in the 2022 NBA draft.
For the first time since 2013, the Blazers have a lottery pick of their own in play after finishing with the sixth-worst record in the NBA (27-55) during a season of massive injuries and roster upheaval.
The lottery, which like the draft combine is being held in Chicago this year, will air at 5 p.m. PT Tuesday on ESPN.
It is fitting that Damian Lillard will represent the Blazers at the lottery. Not only because he has been the face of the franchise since Portland selected him at No. 6 in 2012, but because this pick could go a long way toward shaping the team’s roster around his talents in a quest to build a championship contender.
This year’s draft is widely considered to be top-heavy, with four potential instant difference-makers. Of course, one never truly knows where a star could be found in the draft. But right now, the most-coveted players likely will be Duke power forward Paolo Banchero, Auburn power forward Jabari Smith, Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren and Purdue guard Jaden Ivey.
The Blazers would certainly like to vault into that territory, either to select one of those four or to have a more valuable pick to potentially trade for a proven veteran star.
At the end of the season, Blazers general manager Joe Cronin said he was still evaluating the draft class and would get a lot of work in on that endeavor at the draft combine, which begins Wednesday in Chicago.
“I think it’s a solid draft,” Cronin said.
Unfortunately, the Blazers lost out on having two lottery picks when New Orleans reached the playoffs. The Blazers traded CJ McCollum to the Pelicans for a package that included a protected draft pick that would convey to Portland only if it fell from No. 5 to No. 14.
Cronin said that he would decide what to do with the Blazers’ pick regardless of where it lands based on the value of the pick and the value of potential deals involving the pick in the marketplace.
“If we decide that the player at that pick is much more valuable than what we can get in the marketplace, we go that direction,” Cronin said. “If it’s the opposite, we go the other direction.”
The chances of the Blazers leaping into the top four aren’t great, but certainly aren’t out of reach. The Blazers’ percentage chance for landing each pick from No. 1 through No. 4 are as follows:
No. 1: 9%
No. 2: 9.2%
No. 3: 9.4%
No. 4: 9.6%
Those four picks are awarded by drawing ping pong balls, and then the rest of the draft is adjusted accordingly based on win/loss record. For that reason, the Blazers cannot move up to No. 5. However, they could fall below No. 6, should teams behind them leap into the top four.
The Blazers’ chances of landing from No. 6 to No. 10 are as follows:
No. 6: 8.6%
No. 7: 29.8%
No. 8: 20.5%
No. 9: 3.7%
No. 10: 0.1%
The most notable lottery moment in Blazers history came in 2007 when Portland moved up from the seventh-best position to No. 1. The Blazers had a 5.3% chance to do so and when they did, Rip City went into a frenzy because that meant their team could select Ohio State center Greg Oden.
And the Blazers did. But that move, rather than taking Texas’ Kevin Durant, turned out to be a disaster. The oft-injured Oden never developed into a star and appeared in just 82 games with the Blazers. Durant has gone on to be named league MVP and won two titles with Golden State.
In 2012, the Blazers owned the Brooklyn Nets’ pick but it was top-three protected and ended up remaining at No. 6, where Portland selected Lillard.
That year, the Blazers had their own pick at No. 11, which did not move up, and was used to take center Meyers Leonard.
In 2013, the Blazers had just a 1.1% chance of moving from No. 10 to No. 1. That didn’t happen, and the Blazers selected CJ McCollum.
There was the 2005 lottery when the Blazers bumped up from No. 4 to the No. 3 spot. The Blazers elected to trade back and took Martell Webster at No. 6, while the Jazz used the No. 3 pick to take Deron Williams.
That entire situation backfired on Portland. Williams became a three-time All-Star. Webster averaged 8.5 points per game in five seasons with the Blazers.
Portland could have selected Chris Paul, who went No. 4 to New Orleans and has been a 12-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA selection.
The Blazers reversed their luck the following year. They entered the lottery with the best odds of landing the first pick (25%) but fell all the way back to No. 4. Portland averted disaster by trading for the rights to the No. 2 pick, LaMarcus Aldridge, who was selected by the Chicago Bulls. The Blazers gave the Bulls the rights to Tyrus Thomas, selected at No. 4.
Thomas averaged 7.8 points per game in four seasons with the Bulls. Aldridge was a four-time All-Star with the Blazers.
Whatever happens in the lottery, the Blazers would certainly hope to land a player the caliber of Aldridge, Lillard or McCollum while avoiding a mistake such as Oden or Webster.
— Aaron Fentress | [email protected] | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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