Trail Blazers offseason primer: No. 3 pick, trade possibilities, Jerami Grant, and more

The Portland Trail Blazers remain committed to a playoff pursuit despite their recent struggles. They’ve been in the lottery for two consecutive seasons and refuse to fully tear it down. The team reportedly plans to continue to maximize the roster around Damian Lillard and now has a major trade chip in the third overall selection.

Is there a return out there worthy of trading that pick in such a top-heavy draft? And if they do, do they have enough flexibility to re-sign Jerami Grant and fill out the rest of the roster? There are still questions about the overall talent and the team’s viability to get back to contention next season. A third year out of the playoffs could be the final straw that pushes the organization to a rebuild.

Here is a preview of the 2023 offseason for the Portland Trail Blazers.

State of the roster and overall direction

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The Trail Blazers entered the past two seasons with playoff aspirations in mind. In both years they were teetering in the lower seedings of the play-in tournament and ultimately pivoted to climbing the reverse standings for a higher draft pick. The pressure is on for the team to finally get back into the postseason but it will be challenging to successfully optimize the roster while keeping its cost controlled.

Portland is going into the offseason with 12 players under contract, including their two first-round picks, and is roughly $35 million below the luxury tax. They project to have access to the $12.2 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception and the $4.5 million bi-annual exception. They also have two trade exceptions, including a sizeable $8.3 million one they generated in the trade deadline.

However, they may not be able to utilize the entirety of their exceptions with a large chunk of their remaining room below the tax presumably going to Jerami Grant and maybe Matisse Thybulle. The minimalist approach to their offseason could include making their draft selections, re-signing their top free agents, and doing nothing else. But running back the team would likely result in a similar outcome as last year since they’re not upgrading the top or backend of their roster.

Significant changes must be made if the Blazers are going to make noise in the Western Conference next season. And their quickest path to doing so would be by trading the third overall selection for Lillard’s potential co-star. They still could have issues fielding adequate depth afterward if they’re acquiring an expensive player and then re-signing Grant, but that is an issue they could look to fix later.

Draft pick and trade possibilities

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The Blazers didn’t win this year’s lottery but had the good fortune of landing the third overall selection while having the fifth-best odds. This increases their leverage in trade negotiations significantly considering the drop-off in talent after the third pick. As of now, the consensus No. 2 and 3 best players are Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller, both of whom would be considered top selections in many recent draft classes.

In the event there is no deal, the Blazers are still in a great spot by selecting either player. Henderson, a 6-foot-2 guard, would be considered the successor to Lillard and would have a lot to gain under his mentorship. Miller, a 6-foot-9 forward, would be an excellent fit in Portland’s rotation now considering their lack of options at the three.

It appears that the team will explore the trade market with the third overall selection to acquire a second All-Star, though. However, a deal is easier said than done because they lack large tradeable salaries. They may have to part with both Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic along with the draft pick to match salaries for an All-Star.

What makes a trade even more complicated is the fact that they also owe the Bulls their 2024 first-round pick, which is lottery protected through 2028. They would need to negotiate with Chicago to reduce or eliminate the protection on the pick if they want to trade multiple additional future first-round picks in a subsequent move.

What could ultimately determine whether the Blazers trade the pick or not is the overall pool of potentially available players. There may not be any one single player available worth the third overall pick who is impactful enough to get Portland where they want to be. Some of the best players that are clearly worth moving the selection likely aren’t available.

For example, one of the highest-end players the Blazers could pursue is Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota could be looking at a tax crunch after next season with Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels set to earn lucrative extensions. Towns could be the casualty and a return featuring Henderson would add a great complementary piece to Edwards while balancing their books.

Jaylen Brown is now eligible to sign a supermax extension with the Celtics after earning All-NBA honors. If he weren’t to sign it this summer that would likely indicate he’s open to looking for a new home. The Celtics would likely pursue a trade package that maximizes their title window, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to net a potential future cornerstone with the third overall pick as well as multiple draft picks.

Then there’s a dropoff for the type of player they could realistically target. Chicago seems like a logical trade candidate if they decide to take a step back and move Zach LaVine. But considering the Blazers also need to likely send back Simons just to match salaries, they lose the value proposition. At this point, it’s fair to ask if the Blazers are better off having Henderson or Miller on his rookie contract and Simons earning $25 million annually than LaVine on a maximum contract.

The Raptors are another team that seems like an obvious trade partner. They are facing an inevitable tax crunch with all six of their top players due for new contracts soon. Pascal Siakam is entering the final year of his contract where he’s set to earn $37.9 million and could earn more on his next deal. Acquiring the third overall selection for Siakam would be a great return to capitalize on his recent strong play while giving Scottie Barnes a long-term partner in the backcourt.

None of these frameworks are perfect, so hopefully more possibilities open up for the Blazers by the time we get to the draft. All eyes will be on Lillard’s future if they can’t find a trade that significantly improves the roster. There is an equally if not stronger case for the Blazers to trade Lillard for draft equity and prospects and build around the third overall selection and Shaedon Sharpe.

Free agent: Jerami Grant

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Jerami Grant is Portland’s most significant free agent this offseason. The Blazers acquired him last summer in exchange for the future first-round pick they got for CJ McCollum. As detailed in his free agency stock analysis, Grant had his best regular season in terms of playing with a higher usage while maintaining strong efficiency. He may be one of the most pursued free agents this summer thanks to his versatility and being just 29 years old.

Grant rejected his maximum extension amount of four years, $112.7 million that he could still sign by June 30. This indicates the market for Grant will surpass the $28.25 million annual salary he can currently secure. A starting salary in the $28-30 million range would leave the Blazers will little room to add to the rest of the roster without exceeding the luxury tax.


Players rostered: 12

Guaranteed salaries: $119.2 million

Non-guaranteed salaries: $7.9 million

Total salary: $127.1 million

Luxury tax space: $34.8 million

First apron space: $41.8 million

Second apron space: $52.3 million

Spending power:

  • Non-taxpayer mid-level exception: $12,220,000

  • Bi-annual exception: $4,448,000

  • Gary Payton II trade exception: $8,300,000 (expires February 9, 2024)

  • Josh Hart trade exception: $2,626,019 (expires February 9, 2024)

Damian Lillard

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2023-24 salary: $45,640,084

Remaining salary guaranteed: $208,469,139 through 2026-27

Additional notes:

  • 2026-27 salary is a team option projected at $59 million.

Anfernee Simons

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2023-24 salary: $24,107,143

Remaining salary guaranteed: $77,678,571 through 2025-26

Jusuf Nurkic

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2023-24 salary: $16,875,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $54,375,000 through 2025-26

Shaedon Sharpe

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2023-24 salary: $6,313,800

Remaining salary guaranteed: $21,327,943 through 2025-26

Nassir Little

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2023-24 salary: $6,250,000

Remaining salary guaranteed: $28,000,000 through 2026-27

Kevin Knox

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2023-24 salary: $3,000,000 (team option)

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Keon Johnson

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2023-24 salary: $2,808,720

Remaining salary guaranteed: $7,283,011 through 2024-25

Trendon Watford

Trendon Watford passes to a teammate

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2023-24 salary: $1,836,096

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Additional notes:

  • 2023-24 and 2024-25 salaries are non-guaranteed.

  • Extension-eligible throughout 2023-24.

Jabari Walker

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2023-24 salary: $1,719,864

Remaining salary guaranteed: $400,000

Additional notes:

  • 2023-24 salary is partially guaranteed for $400,000. Fully guaranteed if waived by July 20. 2024-25 salary is non-guaranteed.

Jeenathan Williams

2023-24 salary: $1,719,864

Remaining salary guaranteed: $0

Additional notes:

  • 2023-24 salary is non-guaranteed. Fully guaranteed if not waived by August 1.

Jerami Grant

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Cap hold: $31,432,500

Type of free agent: Bird (unrestricted)

Additional notes:

  • Can avoid free agency and extend with the Blazers by June 30 for up to four years, $112.7 million.

Cam Reddish

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Cap hold: $17,863,362

Type of free agent: Bird (restricted)

Additional notes:

  • Qualifying offer: $7,744,600

Matisse Thybulle

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Cap hold: $13,138,581

Type of free agent: Bird (restricted)

Additional notes:

  • Qualifying offer: $6,275,862

Justise Winslow

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Cap hold: $5,326,829

Type of free agent: Early Bird (unrestricted)

Drew Eubanks

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Cap hold: $1,989,698

Type of free agent: Early Bird (unrestricted)

Idou Badji

Cap hold: $1,774,999

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

John Butler Jr.

Cap hold: $1,774,999

Type of free agent: Non Bird (restricted)

2023 Pick No. 3

2023-24 salary: $9,625,800

Remaining salary guaranteed: $43,704,516 through 2026-27

Additional notes: HoopsHype and ForTheWin’s draft expert Bryan Kalbrosky has Scoot Henderson as the 3rd overall selection in his most recent mock draft.

You can follow Yossi Gozlan (@YossiGozlan) on Twitter.

Story originally appeared on HoopsHype