Blazers With One First Round Pick In 2022 Rather Than Two With Pelicans Making Playoffs

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

Protected first round draft picks, much like hatching chickens, shouldn’t be counted until they’re conveyed.

With the Pelicans making the 2022 NBA Playoffs by way of defeating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament to claim the eight-seed in the Western Conference, the Portland Trail Blazers will not get the conditional first round pick at the 2022 Draft that was a part of the trade sending CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell to New Orleans in exchange for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, Tomas Satoransky and two future second round picks. Instead, the Trail Blazers will receive a 2025 first round pick from the Milwaukee Bucks in order to complete the trade.

The first round pick from New Orleans came with two protections. First, if the pick ended up one through four, the Pelicans would keep it, a standard protection when it comes to trading future first round picks. And if it fell outside of the lottery -- as in picks 15 through 30 -- it would go to Charlotte. But if the pick ended up five through 14, it would convey to Portland, which was a reasonable assumption considering on the day of the trade, the Pelicans were in 10th in the Western Conference with a 22-32 record.

But New Orleans would go 14-14 after the trade to claim the nine-seed in the Western Conference to qualify for the play-in tournament. There, they defeated the ten-seed Spurs 113-103 to set up a win-or-go-home game versus the eight-seed Clippers. And on Friday night in Los Angeles, the Pelicans defeated the Clippers, who learned earlier in the day that Paul George was out due to a positive COVID test, 105-101 to make the postseason for the first time since 2018 while also ensuring Portland would not get an additional first round pick this year.

McCollum would turn in a solid performance, going 9-of-24 from the field and 1-of-7 from three for 19 points, three assists, two rebounds and a block in 42 minutes. But it was the play of another former Trail Blazer, Nance Jr., that would make the difference. The 6-7 power forward, who Portland acquired from Cleveland during the 2021 offseason before sending him to New Orleans at the 2022 trade deadline, went 7-of-8 from the field for 14 points, 16 rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal in 24 minutes.

Of course, Portland also completed a trade with the Pelicans’ opponent this season, sending Norman Powell and Robert Covington to LA in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson, Justise Winslow and a 2025 second round draft pick. Powell finished Friday’s loss with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting, four rebounds, a block and a steal in 24 minutes. Covington went 4-of-7 from the field, 2-of-4 from three and 4-of-5 from the line for 14 points to go with three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 35 minutes.

So now the Trail Blazers enter an important offseason with one less asset at their disposal. They still have their own first round pick -- which would have gone to Chicago as a part of the Nance Jr. trade had the Blazers made the postseason -- three trade exceptions and as many as three exemptions to sign free agents, but not having a second first round pick qualifies as a blow to Portland’s offseason plans.

They can still use the 2025 pick from Milwaukee in a trade, though it’s nowhere near as valuable as the pick from New Orleans would have been, at least in 2022.

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