What is the value of 2025 Bucks Peaks for Portland?

The Portland Trail Blazers’ future hopes and dreams seemed dashed when the New Orleans Pelicans upset the Los Angeles Clippers in their final Good Friday play-in game.

“Seems” is the operative word in that introduction.

The Pelicans won the NBA playoffs this year, sending their first-round pick this year to the Charlotte Hornets — not the Blazers.

But let’s go back a little. At the February trading deadline, Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin traded CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell to the Pelicans in the 2022 protected first round, Josh Hart, Didi Louzada, Tomas Satoransky and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

Protection on the pelican pickaxe meant that Blazers would only get it if they landed between 5 and 14. It was thought to be a reasonable possibility at the time.

But with the playoff berth in New Orleans, Cronin’s consolation is the Milwaukee Bucks’ Top 4 Protected Champion in 2025, which the Pelicans earned after sending Jrue Holiday to Wisconsin in 2020.

The Bucks currently have one of the best, if not the best, players in the league who is still a shocking 27-year-old and, therefore, still firmly entrenched in his prime.

By 2025 Giannis Antetokounmpo will be 30 years old, likely still at the height of said season and no doubt aiming to lead his team into competition again. However, his supportive team may be the biggest factor in their success.

So far in this playoff, his players have been Chris Middleton, Junior Holiday, Brooke Lopez and our old friend Wesley Matthews Jr.

By April 2025, Middleton will be 33, Holiday, 34, Lopez, 37 and Matthews, 38. Pat Connaughton will be 32, Bobby Portez, 30, and Serge Ibaka, 35, with Grayson Allen the only current rotation player to be Still less than 30 years old, .

“But Adrian,” I hear you say, “is sure that the Bucks general manager, John Hurst, will swing deals over the next three years to bring in young, capable talent to help Antetokounmpo.”

Of course he would, but as discussed above, in order to secure the services of the 2013 All Star Jrue Holiday, the Bucks had to give up some assets.

These assets would have helped the team maintain success and its place at the top of the NBA tree. Let’s just review what they gave up for the Swans (in what eventually became a four-team trade with the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder).

New Orleans secured Stephen Adams, current Blazer Eric Bledsoe as well as Milwaukee’s unprotected first rotors in 2025 and 2027 and select swap options in 2024 and 2026.

While the Bucks have their pick this year, they will also send their first all-rounder in 2023 to the Houston Rockets following the deal that brought back PJ Tucker, who now plays with the Miami Heat.

This means that after the NBA draft in June, the Bucks may not control their first-round selection until 2028.

Also, we should never want to infect another human, but who’s to say none of the Bucks’ big names stay for long. Just look at what the Clippers have had to go through this season.

One could argue in a full squad with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson, Robert Covington, Ivica Zubak, Marcus Morris, Luke Kennard, Terrence Mann and Nicholas Batum might have had a real chance of winning this year’s title.

I’ll mitigate these negative events apparently with the fact that veteran players will be lining up to play Antetokounmpo. The man, as his nickname suggests, is a physical obsessive and continues to improve despite already winning two Player of the Year awards – and possibly his third this season.

Also, and perhaps most importantly, by the end of the 2023-24 season, only Antetokonmo and Holiday will be contracted. Sure, they’ll collectively make close to $85 million but with a new TV deal on the horizon, who knows where the salary cap and luxury tax levels will be by then?

Middleton may be off the books as early as the summer of 2023 but with a $40 million player option on the table for 2023-24, it’s unlikely he’s opting out.

Depending on whether Holiday’s production declines over the next two years, Milwaukee may want to move the veteran point guard for whatever young players and assets they can get their hands on.

How might other franchisees view the Pax Group at the moment?

Obviously, picking the 2025 Bucks won’t be as valuable as picking the Pelicans this year. Partly because Milwaukee has the Antetokounmpo, but also, as discussed above, no one has any clear sense of where to pick the lands. It will always be valuable, but there is a very interesting sliding scale between choices 1 and 30. [Note: The pick will not convey to Portland if it falls in the 1-4 range.]

The Blazers are clearly trying to be a mover and rocker this summer. why? Because Damien Lillard will be 32 this year and it’s becoming abundantly clear that the franchise is going to do all it can to surround as much talent as possible.

If the Pelicans missed the playoffs and didn’t make it to the top four on lottery night, Portland would have claimed two lottery picks. Yes, swans are likely to be in the double digits, but they are still a very valuable commodity.

According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, Cronin had high hopes for the Pelicans’ pick, whether it was going to be done on draft night or dealing with Jerami Grant or another veteran talent we’ll never know. Now that the chips are down, I’m not sure the Blazers will necessarily tackle the Bucks’ pick this year, but I have no doubts they will.

Their problem is that while the 2025 Bucks pick could be quite as high as the Pelicans’ pick could have been this season, it won’t be anywhere near the same value due to this uncertainty.

Thus, Cronin may have to offer more than just a choice if he’s going to get the payoff he initially wanted. Whether it’s a Portland pick (ideally not), a Bucks pick, a young player(s) or a newly arrived second-round pick, the Blazers have far less leverage.

Conclusion

Loss of swans pickaxe sucked, big time. Cronin boldly took a swing to try to quickly change the fortunes of this team.

He is now later than it would have been due to the uncertainty associated with the selection of the Bucks and a generation player named Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But first-round picks will always be valuable – the Bucks were able to secure a Jrue Holiday with the Pelicans, knowing full well that the choices they got in return might not be particularly high.

The returns on this particular pick will not be as good as the Pelicans would have chosen, but it is still valuable because, in the end, anything can happen over the next 36 months.

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