Blazers agree to deal with Hornets for 27th pick

Updated: June 25, 2008, 6:16 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com

The Portland Trail Blazers have agreed to a deal with the New Orleans Hornets to acquire the 27th pick in Thursday's NBA draft for cash considerations, a Blazers source told ESPN.com.

The deal was agreed to verbally between the two teams on Tuesday night, according to the source. The deal awaits league approval and may not become official until Thursday's draft has begun, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday, citing a person who works in the NBA and is familiar with the transaction. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the deal hadn't been formally announced.

Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard has been very active in the past few drafts acquiring picks. Armed with the financial might of owner Paul Allen, the Blazers acquired the 23rd pick in the draft last year and drafted Rudy Fernandez. They also used cash to acquire Sergio Rodriguez in 2006.

The Trail Blazers already have the 13th overall selection and adding the 27th pick would give them five draft picks overall, including three in the second round. The Trail Blazers also have yet to see action from Greg Oden, last year's top overall pick in the draft, because of knee surgery that sidelined him for all of his rookie season.

It's unclear who the Blazers are eyeing at No. 27. One possibility is Croatian big man Ante Tomic, whom the Blazers have coveted for years.

Other potential targets are French swingman Nicolas Batum, who has slipped in the draft because of concerns about his heart, and Memphis swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Hornets general manager Jeff Bower declined to confirm the trade, saying nothing is official until the league approves it. However, he talked about how the Hornets' could benefit in free agency by taking cash for their only pick in this year's NBA draft.

The Hornets fell one victory short of the Western Conference finals this past season, losing in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. Bower said it is rare for a rookie selected in the bottom fifth of the draft's opening round to be a difference-maker on a team looking to contend for a championship.

"That type of production normally comes two or three years down the road," Bower said.

The Hornets' rebuilding years are behind them, however, and head coach Byron Scott has only two seasons on his current contract.

With a starting lineup that includes All-Stars Chris Paul and David West, along with perimeter sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic and 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler, the goal is to contend for a title next season. Conventional wisdom points to free agency as the fastest way to make the Hornets, who won a franchise-record 56 games in the regular season, a better playoff team.

"We have to make the judgment as to where we can get the quickest help," Bower said. "So we're looking at, really, from a draft pick at 27 or maybe we're better served looking at other avenues."

With no incoming rookies, the Hornets would add money that would otherwise have been spent on draft choices into their pot for free agency -- in addition to cash received from another team in a trade, which could be as high as $3 million under league rules, Bower said.

As of Wednesday, the Hornets did not have a second-round choice in the draft. It was traded to Houston last season as part of a deal that sent Bobby Jackson to the Rockets in exchange for Bonzi Wells and Mike James. Houston later dealt that pick, the 56th overall, to Seattle.

Wells will become an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Chad Ford | email

Senior Writer, NBA Insider