The Portland Trail Blazers had too many picks in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, and they just got rid of a couple of them.
Portland GM Neil Olshey has reportedly swapped the Nos. 15 and 20 picks in Thursday’s draft for the Sacramento Kings’ No. 10 pick. Sacramento selected Zach Collins with that pick on behalf of the Blazers.
Collins, 19, was a crucial part of Gonzaga’s run to the national title game this year. The 7-footer shot 47.6 percent on 3-pointers for the Bulldogs. He also averaged 19.2 rebounds per 100 possessions while posting an impressive net rating.
What this means for fans in Portland isn’t yet clear, although more changes to this roster should be expected. The Blazers, top heavy with the salaries of Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe, needed to add some kind of depth to their roster. It could also signal a move away from some of their current players under contract.
Portland has struggled to find useful minutes outside of Jusuf Nurkic on their front line. Al-Farouq Aminu has been a complete necessity on defense, but his turnovers on drives and dip in 3-point shooting from a season ago hurt Portland’s offense rotationally. Maurice Harkless didn’t make a big jump after an impressive playoffs in 2015-16. Noah Vonleh is still extremely rough around the edges, and Meyers Leonard suffered all season long after having shoulder surgery.
For the Kings, this represents more value for them in the draft. They reportedly didn’t love anyone at No. 10, and after trading DeMarcus Cousins last year to the New Orleans Pelicans, they will be looking to rebuild their roster with young talent.
The story here is really where the Blazers will want to go next. It feels as though Crabbe has been the player most primed for a move, but now we have to think about their front line players as well. Aminu’s contract is still stellar at $7.3 million next season, and Vonleh has been Olshey’s pet project for two years.
That leaves Leonard as the odd man out after gaining significant traction with a non-qualifying 40-50-90 season in 2014-15. What value he has is difficult to gauge — he is a legitimate 7-footer who can shoot the lights out, and his summer workout regiment this offseason has been admirable. But he has struggled with confidence and has taken a step back defensively after Portland fired big man coach Kim Hughes in 2015.
Whether that’s the move, or if Olshey can find a suitor for Turner — who they externally have put faith in for another season — we will have to see.
There’s a logjam in Portland now, both with young big men and in salary. Something tells me Olshey isn’t done dealing yet, either by choice or by necessity.