Blazers

Blazers Quickly Building Without Breaking

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The Portland Trail Blazers walked away from the 2024 NBA Draft with a pair of players that their front office was very high on and, perhaps more importantly, were able to secure them without giving up any costly assets. 

DENI AVDIJA TO PDX

The acquisition of forward Deni Avdija began the rollercoaster hour for Blazer fans on Wednesday. Portland sent Malcolm Brogdon’s one-year, $22.5 million contract, the No. 14 overall pick in this year’s draft (which turned into Bub Carrington), the second-least favorable of the Blazers three 2029 first-round draft picks, and two future second-round picks to the Wizards, reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski

Deni Avdija is a wing player with size that can defend multiple positions— something the Blazers have been searching for since Batum left in 2015.

He’s also coming off easily the best year of his career. Last season, Avdija received ten votes for the Most Improved Player Award, put up a 43-point, 15-rebound performance on Valentine’s Day and led the Wizards in rebounds post All-Star break, after Daniel Gafford was traded. For the season, he averaged 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 50/37/74 shooting splits.

BLAZERS SHIP OUT BROGDON, DRAFT PICKS

As far as the assets Portland had to give up, Brogdon was seen by Blazer fans as a must-move piece.

It was no true knock on Brogdon as a player, but the sooner they got rid of him, the better. His age and position — not to mention injury concerns — were the antithesis to what the Blazers wanted around their young core pieces in Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson

Giving up two first-round picks in addition to Brogdon does seem like a steep price on the surface. However, the No. 14 pick would have seemingly just added to an already-cramped 2024-25 Blazer roster. The Blazers had four total picks going into the 2024 draft and only used one of them. The Blazers will also keep the best of three 2029 picks between their own, the Celtics’ and the Bucks’ (the latter two with potential of becoming high-lottery selections, coming from current win-now teams). Throw in two future second-rounders to appease Washington, and the Blazers get to walk away with a player they coveted.

Now they have the 23-year-old Avdija signed for the next four years at an AAV of just $13.75 million. Back when he was a draft insider, Blazers Assistant General Manager Mike Schmitz regarded him as someone who could emerge as the best player from the Class of 2020.

Schmitz called Avdija “the steal of the draft”.

BLAZERS DRAFT UCONN’S CLINGAN

Avdija was just the first steal during night one of the draft for Joe Cronin and Co. Without having to move up at all, Portland was able to select Donovan Clingan with the No. 7 pick. 

Cronin said in his post-draft presser that the front office had Clingan higher than No. 7 on their board, although he wouldn’t say exactly where. He also gave praise to his scouts who had Clingan on their radar going into his freshman year at UConn. Schmitz, who went out to Bristol Central High School in 2021 to see Clingan, brings another guy he’s very high on to the PNW. 

It was no secret that the Blazers liked Clingan, keeping his workout with them private. There’s a lot to like seeing as he’s a 7-foot-2 elite rim protector with a 7-foot-7 wingspan who has a high IQ and tremendous passing skills. It also is a major benefit that Dan Hurley coached him the past two years. Clingan went undefeated in 12 total NCAA tournament games.

Regardless of how fans feel about the big man, it’s undeniable that the Blazers got Clingan at a high-value spot. It was hard to find a legitimate mock draft that had Clingan drafted lower than No. 7. The Blazers took a gamble by not trading up, and it paid off in a massive way.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR PORTLAND

Portland still clearly has many more questions left to answer.

The addition of Clingan now invokes questions for what is going to happen to Deandre Ayton and Robert Williams. Can an Ayton-Clingan frontcourt work together for extended periods of time? Without that, it’s tough to see a world where all three centers play significant minutes next season. 

Neither of these moves alone make the Blazers a playoff contender next season. They’re still searching for their All-NBA-caliber player who can turn them into a legitimate threat. In the same post-draft presser, Cronin stated that he is committed to Sharpe and Henderson moving forward. He did not mention Anfernee Simons

But if there’s one thing the Blazers’ front office has done well since trading Damian Lillard last summer, it’s bring in undervalued players that those within their office are high on. The moves made in and around the 2024 NBA draft were no exception to that. 

About Jethro Swain

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