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News / Sports / Blazers

Blazers get picks for almost nothing

Portland gives up cap room for two future draft picks

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 18, 2016, 5:28pm

TUALATIN, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the major players during the NBA’s flurry of trades ahead of the noon deadline Thursday, making moves for the future without sacrificing the competitiveness of now.

The Blazers were a part of two separate deals that netted them a first-round pick in 2018, a second-round pick and point guard Brian Roberts from the Miami Heat in exchange for a second-round pick, guard Tim Frazier and taking on the contract of Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao.

The Blazers had to open up a roster spot to make the Varejao deal happen, which ended up netting them a 2018 top-10 protected first round pick from the Cavaliers.

If for whatever reason the Cavaliers are one of the ten worst teams in the league in 2018 and 2019, something highly unlikely if LeBron James is still there, the pick would turn into two second-round picks, according to a league source.

And although the Blazers subsequently waived Varejao, they were forced to create a roster spot, which came at the cost of Frazier’s job.

Unlike the other teams that got first round picks on Thursday, the Blazers gave up only cap space that would have to be spent at season’s end anyway and Frazier, who was a great locker room influence but had barely played this season.

Although the moves did not draw big names that fans wanted, Neil Olshey, Blazers president of basketball operations, feels that acquiring a first-round pick is a pretty attractive proposition.

“Look at the transactions of other teams and look at the level of player they had to give up to get a first round pick was,” Olshey told reporters when asked about the deals not necessarily being “sexy” to fans. “We gave up cap room. I think it’s really sexy. That doesn’t happen anymore. With most teams not under financial constraints and the cap escalating, the days of getting 1st round picks just for room have essentially almost gone away.”

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Damian Lillard told reporters Wednesday that he knew Olshey would do what he had to improve the roster and while he understands why the moves were made, it still hurts to see his close friend Frazier leave.

“I think everybody knows what’s between me and Tim,” Lillard said. “He’s a good friend of mine, over the last six months I’ve pretty much been with him every day. It’s unfortunate. Nobody here wanted to see him go. But obviously like I said yesterday Neil has a job to do. Tim’s a soldier, he’ll be fine.”

Olshey told reporters that he told Frazier they would look into bringing him back if they could not shore up the point guard position, which they did hours later by acquiring Roberts.

The Blazers acquired him and a second-round pick, which helped the Miami Heat avoid the dreaded repeater luxury tax.

Roberts is one of the best pick-and-roll scorers in limited volume, ranking fourth in points per possession among ball handlers in pick-and-roll situations, according to NBA.com.

“He’s a pretty good player, it seems like every time we’ve played against him he’s played well,” Lillard said.

More than anything, the moves Portland made Thursday signal that Olshey believes in what the Blazers have done so far this season and can do in the final 28 games.

“It took a lot of work to put this group together,” Olshey said. “Knowing how all the pieces fit and knowing how they would fit into Terry’s system and our culture, how they would fall in line behind Damian’s leadership. We’re not going to tinker with that. If it had been a major upgrade, you do what you need to do. But we weren’t going to change for the sake of change.”

Now the Blazers have replenished their coffers with assets after using several future draft picks for deals, such as the acquisition of Robin Lopez, during the Aldridge era.

The Blazers now have more options and can use that pick to draft a player in the future or pool all of those assets together for a bigger deal down the line, coming at little cost.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer