featured-image

The Latest Rumblings And Rumors Heading Into The 2022 Draft

There are lies, damn lies and statistics, as the saying goes, but there's also at least one other common source of misinformation: the run up to the NBA Draft. Between teams' attempts at guarding their true intentions, agents pumping up the value of their respective clients and those who just want people to believe they're in the know, it's all but impossible to parse out what is real and what is fabrication as the NBA Draft inches closer and closer. Some of that is just due to the unpredictable nature of the draft -- as in, not everything reported that doesn't come to fruition is necessarily misinformation -- though a significant percentage is still pure bull plop. It's one of the reasons the NBA Draft is so popular.

And this year, there is no lack of rumors regarding what the Portland Trail Blazers might do Thursday night. Armed with the seventh, 36th and 57th picks and a desire add pieces around Damian Lillard in the hopes of making a quick return to the postseason, General Manager Joe Cronin and his staff have explored just about every option to maximize the first offseason opportunity to add talent to the roster. Initially, many thought that meant trading the pick for a veteran -- an option Cronin mentioned in the early stages of the pre-draft process -- though the reporting now seems to indicate a desire to select a player for themselves at seven. Is it all an elaborate smokescreen in order to keep other teams guessing? Could be. Have they come to the conclusion there's too much talent at seven to make a win-now move for a veteran? Also possible. We won't really know until the Trail Blazers are on the clock Thursday night, and even then, it might take a while for everything to shake out, at least officially.

But even if some, much or most of what you read isn't true, there's no harm in staying informed, or at least up-to-date. So here's some of the latest "intel" about Portland's draft plans from those in the media tasked with keeping tabs on such things...

Adrian Wojnarowski: “Listen, they’re certainly open to trading it. This is an organization that’s looking to rebuild, reshape their roster around Damian Lillard. They want to get veterans in there, they want to try to be back in the playoffs. But there’s a lot of value, they see a lot of value at seven, that there may not be a trade using that pick that makes more sense.”

• Brian Windhorst, Tim MacMahon and Tim Bontempts on ESPN's Hoop Collective podcast...

Tim MacMahon: “I think Portland is also... I don’t know if I want to say likely, but certainly a strong possibility to move that pick.”

Brian Windhorst: “So, my latest intel on that -- and you might have fresher news that me -- my latest intel on that is Portland is now in the mood to keep that pick. I think Givony had them looking at Shaedon Sharpe out of Kentucky (ed note: Givony's latest mock draft has Portland taking Dyson Daniels, even with Sharpe still on the board) -- he didn’t actually play at Kentucky, hasn’t played in two years. When I had Kevin Pelton on the Hoop Collective podcast this week he was citing his Nike EYBL numbers, his AAU numbers to do stat analysis. What else are you going to use, he hasn’t played in two years."

Tim Bontemps: "He’s a big, five tools kid. If I was one of these teams somewhere in that middle of the lottery, that’s what I’d be looking at. He obviously hasn’t played, there’s a lot of question marks but if you have the ability to swing for the fences, he has massive upside."

Brian Windhorst: "He’s 12 years younger than Dame Lillard. Twelve years younger than Dame Lillard. Is he ready for them to use their highest pick in years on a multi-year project guy? I don’t know. I see what you’re saying."

Tim MacMahon: "Again, if they’re in win-now mode, I don’t know if that pick makes sense for them. I think they could utilize that... there’s the names they’ve been connected to for a while. We’ll see."

• The Athletic's John Hollinger has a few ideas about what the Trail Blazers could/should do... 

"There seems to be an emerging consensus that Dyson Daniels is Portland’s pick if the Blazers keep it, although there is some significant Sharpe buzz here, too. Portland is under some win-now pressure because it has ignored the obvious move (trade Damian Lillard, actually rebuild) to do a Wizards of the West thing and chase the eighth seed.

If the Blazers are going that route, this brings us to my favorite fake three-way trade — Oklahoma City trading Lu Dort and the 12th pick to Portland for Nos. 7 and 36, Eric Bledsoe, Didi Louzada and Justise Winslow, followed by Portland trading 12 to Detroit for Grant.

Oklahoma City has been linked to Sharpe for a while, and picking him would be pretty consistent with the Thunder’s preference for working with raw clay. I don’t think he gets to them at 12.

While we’re making trades on behalf of Joe Cronin, the trio of Josh Hart, Winslow and Louzada also could be aggregated to bring back John Collins, in a trade down to Atlanta’s pick at 16. The Hawks seemingly would have more preference for Daniels here, giving them a wing who actually plays defense and can slide in at backup point guard when Trae Young rests.

The Blazers have so many options because they’re sitting on a $20.8 million trade exception from the CJ McCollum trade, which allows them to take in a player like Grant (or OG Anunoby, or Harrison Barnes, etc.) without needing to match salary.

In the midst of all that, I’ve also heard whispers about Portland moving up to take Murray. Stay tuned."

• Jeremy Woo at SI.com passing along some info about the Trail Blazers, Shaedon Sharpe and whether a trade is on the horizon...

"With the draft a day away, Sharpe remains one of the trickier players to place, with his realistic range beginning with Portland at No. 7, and his absolute floor a bit difficult to peg due to potential trades in the 8-13 range. Sharpe didn’t necessarily move the needle on the workout circuit, but nobody around the league anticipates a shocking fall, either: his physical gifts and scoring ability portend pretty real upside, and at some point drafting him simply becomes about risk tolerance and situational preference.

Here’s what I know to be true about Sharpe’s situation. The Trail Blazers have done a lot of homework on Sharpe behind the scenes and are thought to have pretty real interest in him at No. 7. (The other name frequently popping up for Portland is Dyson Daniels.) If Portland doesn’t take Sharpe, the Pelicans are considered a potential landing spot for him at No. 8. Depending on what trades take place, the furthest he’d realistically fall is No. 10 or No. 11, whether it’s the Wizards, Knicks or a different team picking at one of those spots.

Reading between the lines, this leaves the Thunder, who have long been tipped as a Sharpe suitor, on the outside looking in at No. 12. The possibility of a trade between Portland and Oklahoma City that would center on a swap of No. 7 and No. 12 has been circulating for a while, and if the Thunder do move up, Sharpe could feasibly be the target. Oklahoma City has also been strongly tied to Ousmane Dieng. It’s unclear whether they value either player enough to trade up, but considering the indefinite timeline the Thunder seem to have and that neither player is guaranteed to be there at No. 12, it’s a theory that makes some sense."

• Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports lists the Trail Blazers as his “most intriguing team” going into Thursday’s draft...

"The Blazers need to quickly reconstruct a contending roster around Damian Lillard if they want him to stick around long enough to eat Thanksgiving dinner in Portland, and the No. 7 pick in this draft probably isn't going to add immediate help. The players in that range could certainly develop into quality starters or more, but Lillard has stated that he wants to win now, knowing that the twilight of his prime is rapidly approaching.

That leaves Portland as a prime trade candidate as it looks to dangle the pick for some win-now help, according to NBA Insider Marc Stein. Expect the talk around the Blazers to reach frenzied levels as the draft approaches, and if they're unable to move the pick before Thursday, it could affect which player they select. While a prospect like Keegan Murray, if available, is perhaps more NBA-ready, Portland might consider taking a flier on someone like Shaedon Sharpe, simply because he could be more intriguing as a trade chip down the road. The Blazers have a lot of work to do to create a contender before the season, and it starts with how they handle the No. 7 pick."

• Brad Botkin, also at CBS Sports, also ponders whether Portland will end up keeping or trading the seventh pick...

"The Trail Blazers lost out on a second lottery pick when the Pelicans scraped into the playoffs, and their own tank job only landed them the No. 7 pick. They were hoping for better than that. But this is what they have, and most people would be very surprised if they don't package that pick up and ship it out in return for a player who can push them closer to the contender conversation.

Atlanta's John Collins has been mentioned. Jerami Grant. A sign and trade with Phoenix for Ayton seems unlikely. Portland needs defense on the perimeter and at the rim, and front-court shooting and playmaking. Lu Dort has been hinted at as a possible target for the Blazers, who are, according to Jake Fischer, prioritizing Toronto's OG Anunoby in return for the No. 7 pick. Toronto having any interest in that deal might be another story."