The Portland Trail Blazers have landed what looks like two lottery picks—as well as two consecutive second-round picks in this year's upcoming draft—but it seems as though utilizing those picks to rebuild is out of the question.
Coming off of a disappointing 28-38 season, the only bright spot in the Blazers' season was their core pieces. LaMarcus Aldridge, despite missing the first two weeks of the season with heart surgery, had yet another All-Star-caliber season, landing him a spot as a Western Conference All-Star Reserve.
Nicolas Batum had yet another standout season, playing shut-down defense while shooting 39.5 percent from three and averaging 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, one steal and one block per game.
Elliot Williams, who sat his entire rookie season out after undergoing knee surgery, had a great comeback year, showing glimpses of greatness in limited play time. Also, even though Wesley Matthews wasn't on his A-game this year, he's still a piece that the Blazers are going to move forward and build around.
Everyone else was labeled expendable. Jamal Crawford will likely opt out of the final year in his contract, and Portland would be insane to extend Raymond Felton a new contract. The contracts of Hasheem Thabeet and Jonny Flynn (who they picked up in a trade to Houston), as well as J.J. Hickson, are set to expire at the end of this season, freeing up anywhere between $12-and-15 million in cap space going into the summer.
But jumping ship and starting anew is not part of the plan in Portland. In an interview with NBA Courtside, Blazers interim GM Chad Buchanan revealed that the Blazers are more interested in packaging their draft picks in order to obtain some established, quality talent to get Portland back into the playoffs.
I think in an ideal world, the point guard position, the center position, we want to address with an established player, preferably through free agency or a trade. In the draft, we're going to take the best player available. If we're picking at pick 11, we're going to take the best player available. If it happens to be a position of need, great. But when you're picking that high, you want to take the best talent.
If we happen to have another pick as well, if it's pick six or pick seven or whatever that other pick could be, same philosophy. If we could add two talented players, whatever position they might be, then go address our holes with established players, that would be the best scenario for us.
Our draft picks are going to be available. If there's a chance to get an established, proven player using a pick, we will definitely go that route.
Portland acquired the Brooklyn Nets' 2012 top-three protected first-round draft pick in a trade deadline deal that sent Gerald Wallace to the Nets in exchange for F Shawne Williams.
The Nets finished tied with Sacramento for the fifth worst record in the NBA, then lost the tie-breaking drawing with the Kings to determine the lottery after the first three picks. According to the Oregonian's Mike Tokito, the Nets have a 7.5 percent chance of landing the first overall pick in the draft, and 8.34 percent chance of landing the second pick and a 9.39 percent chance of getting the third.
"If the Blazers do get the pick, the best it can be is the No. 6 pick, the worst the No. 9 pick," Tokito continued. "If the Blazers do not get a top-three spot, the best their pick can be is No. 11, the worst No. 14."
What Should Portland Do With Draft Picks?
So with a possible sixth and 11th pick in one of the stronger drafts in the past few years, is it plausible for the Blazers to package those two picks together with a player on their team for an established player to pair up with Aldridge?
A great scenario would be shipping both picks, as well as signing and trading Raymond Felton to the Boston Celtics for Rajon Rondo. If Austin Rivers declares for the draft, he's projected to be picked up as a late lottery pick, around No. 13 or No. 14.
Portland could entice the C's with the idea of Doc Rivers coaching his own son, in order to bring a true, pass-first, defensive-oriented All-Star PG into the lineup.
Whichever route they choose, they must move fast. Nic Batum is a highly coveted restricted free agent who is looking for a massive raise going into free agency. While it's a tricky scenario, the Blazers can make some key acquisitions and still hang onto Batum if they play their cards right.
What would you do if you were Portland's GM?
Shop your picks or draft the best available players?
Kristian Winfield is a Featured Columnist on the Bleacher Report You can follow him on Twittter @BriscoXCI