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3 best Blazers trades using No. 7 pick in 2022 NBA Draft

Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers’ historic post-All-Star tanking efforts didn’t pay off the way Joe Cronin and company imagined. All Portland has to show for its 2-21 finish to the regular season is the seventh selection in the draft come June 23rd, a stark disappointment for a team that entered lottery night with the sixth-best odds of vaulting up to No. 1.

Surrounding Damian Lillard with as much help as possible will be the Blazers’ utmost priority until the front office indicates otherwise. In that vein, it was hardly shocking when Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report reported on Friday that league personnel have earmarked Portland as a “strong trade candidate” in wake of Tuesday’s dispiriting lottery results.

Here are three potential trades involving the No. 7 overall pick that would bolster the win-now Blazers’ chances of competing toward the upper half of the Western Conference next season.

3 best Blazers trades using No. 7 pick in 2022 NBA draft

No. 7 to the Detroit Pistons for Jerami Grant

This may be too rich a price to pay for a player of Grant’s valuable but limited caliber, especially considering he’s up for a four-year, $112 million extension this summer. On the other hand, at least the Blazers would maintain some degree of immediate flexibility here because Grant could slot into the trade exception netted via the C.J. McCollum trade.

Regardless, would Portland really be excited about committing to an expensive long-term core of Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, Grant, Jusuf Nurkic and Nassir Little? That team isn’t winning a title, obviously, but would at least make the Blazers surefire playoff contenders as long as Lillard can cling to what’s left of his prime.

Ideally, Portland would find another way to bring in Grant—a rumored target dating back to the 2021 trade deadline—without giving up the seventh pick in the draft. Cronin would undoubtedly offer the Milwaukee Bucks’ 2025 first-rounder and Keon Johnson to the Pistons in exchange for Grant before putting his most valuable team-building asset on the table. Troy Weaver has a close personal relationship with Grant, though, and reports suggest Detroit would be comfortable hanging onto him.

If the Blazers are intent on leveling up next season, less concerned about “winning” a trade that would definitely make them better, moving No. 7 for Grant is their most realistic option.

No. 7, Justise Winslow and Eric Bledsoe to the New York Knicks for No. 11 and Julius Randle

Note the order in which what’s coming back to Rip City in this theoretical should shrug of a trade with the Knicks.

Randle, clearly, isn’t the player he was in 2020-21, when he suddenly became one of basketball’s premier tough shot-makers in empty arenas across the league. The Knicks inked him to a four-year, $117 million extension last August, assuming Randle’s Second Team All-NBA selection would the first of many such honors going forward.

All signs point to that deal, which doesn’t even kick in until next season, being a negative contract given Randle’s expected on-court impact from here. It speaks to the Blazers’ dire team-building straits that they should explore these trade parameters regardless.

Missing out on an extra lottery pick when the New Orleans Pelicans made the playoffs left Portland without the luxury of building for the present and the future. Moving down just four spots in the draft while upgrading this team’s overall talent level with Randle would be a risk worth taking for the Blazers, especially if a prospect like Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan or Memphis’ Jalen Duren was still on the board at No. 11.

No. 7 to the Atlanta Hawks for De’Andre Hunter

There’s little suggesting the Hawks are considering moving Hunter. Every team in the league needs as many two-way wings as possible, and it wasn’t long ago the fourth overall pick of the 2018 draft looked like a multi-positional stopper with intriguing self-created scoring chops. It’d be a bold move for Atlanta to cut bait with a player of that ilk before giving him a second contract.

The Hawks sorely disappointed in 2021-22, though, their on-court struggles extending to the locker room. Maybe moving Hunter, his progress continually beset by injury, could be the first domino to fall in Atlanta’s hopes of building a more reliable supporting cast around Trae Young.

Hunter would fill a gaping hole for Portland on the wing, where Chauncey Billups’ team still lacks size, athletic pop and offense-defense dynamism. He’s still on his rookie contract, too, set to hit restricted free agency next summer.

Surrendering a mid-lottery pick for a 24-year-old who’s always in and out of the lineup would be a tough pill for the Blazers to swallow. There’s also widespread disagreement on the height of Hunter’s ceiling. Still, the risk of acquiring him could very well be worth the reward if Hunter is able to put early-career health concerns behind him.