Blazers

Blazers, Mavs Headline Teams to Watch This Offseason

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Teams across the league find themselves one step closer to the NBA offseason madness luring over the horizon.

Even with playoff basketball still ongoing, most teams have their eyes set towards what could be a busy, transaction-heavy summer. The NBA Draft Lottery provided some clarity moving forward as the draft approaches on June 22.

For the third time in franchise history, San Antonio won the “Wemby Sweepstakes” and possesses the right to select a franchise cornerstone big man in Victor Wembanyama out of France. If the hype proves to be real, Wembanyama’s play will continue the Spurs’ legacy left behind by David Robinson and Tim Duncan.

The rest of the draft? Nothing but a landscape of uncertainty and possibility.

Here is how the NBA Draft Lottery on May 16 shook out:

1. San Antonio
2. Charlotte
3. Portland
4. Houston
5. Detroit
6. Orlando
7. Indiana
8. Washington
9. Utah
10. Dallas
11. Orlando (from Chicago)
12. Oklahoma City
13. Toronto
14. New Orleans

It’s a weird mix of teams, right? The top-14 selections feature everything from start-up rebuilds and playoff hopefuls to full-blown fringe title contenders. Wembanyama to San Antonio is guaranteed to happen. From there, who knows what could come next.

With the draft approaching in less than a month, The Lead compiled some of the most notable teams to watch for over the next month heading into the 2023 draft.

The end of Dame Time?

Portland embraced going tank mode towards the end of last season, losing nine of its last 10 games and 15 of its final 17. And, it worked. The Blazers entered the lottery with the fifth-best odds at the first pick and walked away with the third selection in the draft.

The tricky part: what comes next.

Portland missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. The Blazers haven’t advanced past the first round in the last seven years outside of a Conference Finals berth in 2019.

Damian Lillard — who averaged over 32 points per game and seven assists per game on 46/37/91 shooting splits this past season — clinched a spot on this year’s All-NBA third team. Heading into his age-33 season, can his All-NBA play keep up? Are the Blazers stuck in NBA no man’s land? Is the franchise extending a run which may run its course in an unforgiving conference?

Given his age and contract (his four-year, $176 million extension begins in 2023-2024), Portland could look to hit the reset button. The Blazers could trade the third pick for a more win-now player, or take a prospect with or without a Lillard trade in place (looking at you, Scoot Henderson and/or Brandon Miller). Plus, Portland could even trade back to a team like Orlando to get more assets to trade out or opt to keep.

The bottom line: the Blazers have a lot to think about regarding the future direction of the franchise. Have you heard about that inflection point before?

Who can help out Luka?

Luka Doncic — even with his statistical brilliance — can only do so much. Trading for Kyrie Irving mid-season proved to have failed based on Dallas finishing 9-18 to end the season. Now, there’s mounting pressure on the franchise to put some winning pieces to compliment its superstar cornerstone.

Keeping the 10th pick — and not forking that over to New York — means Dallas has an asset to trade. Rumors aside, Irving’s future is an unknown until it isn’t. Christian Wood, who the Mavs acquired last offseason, probably won’t be back based on current reporting.

Expect the Mavs to be in the most trade rumors this offseason. Dallas will need to find some ready-now talent to pair with Doncic and potentially Irving.

The Mavs won 52 games and made the Conference Finals in 2021-2022, but suffered a 14-win drop-off this season. Will the arrow point back up for Doncic and the Mavs?

Does Orlando get frisky?

The Magic made out last NBA Draft Lottery as big-time winners, taking Duke’s Paolo Banchero first overall in 2022. Banchero gave some much-needed life to what feels like a centuries-long rebuild since Orlando parted ways with the Dwight Howard era.

At 34-48 this season, the Magic won their most games since the 2018-2019 season, but Orlando has also made the playoffs just twice in the last 11 years.

The good news: Banchero, Franz Wagner, and the Magic’s young core give the franchise some hope. And, Orlando possesses both the sixth and 11th picks in this year’s draft.

Do the Magic opt to select two prospects to round out their core? Maybe Orlando can find two rotation-level players to jolt the team’s 26th ranking in offensive rating?

Or, will we see a potential move-up to, say, Portland at pick three? If the Magic took Henderson (a ball-handler and scorer) or Miller (another two-way, multi-positional wing), suddenly Orlando possesses a nice trio for the next decade.

Can any of these teams find some direction?

The trio of Charlotte (two, 27, and three early-to-mid second rounders), Houston (four and 20) and Detroit (five) all find themselves in the same boat. Only, the boat feels more like the Titanic.

Charlotte hasn’t made the playoffs in seven years. Both Detroit and Houston are stuck in rebuilding mode yet keep shooting themselves in the foot with no true direction for their respective franchises. The outlook isn’t pretty.

The latter of those two teams sit with ample cap space for this offseason, however. Charlotte’s choice at two will dictate what happens with Portland, Detroit and Houston in the draft. Each of these teams possesses an unwavering amount of ways to change what could happen during the draft and free agency.

Simply put, this is bound to be an unforgettable summer.

About Dominic Chiappone

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