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Canzano: Trail Blazers GM Joe Cronin had a nice week on the job
Portland's roster got better.
Give Trail Blazers’ general manager Joe Cronin some credit. The former intern at One Center Court had his best week since rising to land the GM job.
Cronin traded for a nice player in Jerami Grant. Then, he stuck to his principles on draft night and made a big bet on a high-flyer named Shaedon Sharpe.
Time for a victory lap?
“We know we’re not good enough,” Cronin told reporters gathered at the practice facility in Tualatin afterward. “We wanna keep trying to get better.”
Nice to hear some humility from the GM seat. Also, good to know that Cronin isn’t in denial. The Blazers got better this week, but need to keep climbing. Still, Thursday marked Cronin’s first draft night as the GM and he had a strong performance.
The pick of Sharpe intrigues me. The No. 1-rated high school player in the 2022 high school class didn’t play a minute of college basketball at Kentucky last season. When Sharpe became eligible late in the college season, those vested in his draft stock didn’t like the idea of throwing him in a game and risking a poor performance. That raises some natural questions about competitive fire. Still, I like the logic of this pick and wrote it on draft night.
Now, I’m focused on Cronin’s act.
His GM predecessor was smug, arrogant, condescending, insecure and back biting. Neil Olshey rarely distributed public credit to his team of scouts, analysts and lieutenants. He mocked fan criticism and clapped back when questioned by the media. It’s why Cronin’s opening statement after the draft felt so jarring.
He thanked every member of his team — by name. Then, instead of assuming a defensive posture, Cronin fielded questions from the media and spoke openly about the franchise’s roster-building philosophy.
Why didn’t Cronin trade the No. 7 pick for an established player?
“As the process moved on we became more and more enamored with pick No. 7. In my trade discussions, it became, ‘You’ve got to wow us to move this pick.’ It ended up that nobody wowed us,” he said.
Is it a concern that Sharpe didn’t play a college game?
“We had a pretty good foundation built on Shaedon based on past viewings by some of our new people here.”
What’s the plan now?
“We’ll continue working the trade lines, looking for upgrades, and when the time comes enter the free-agent market and look for specific needs.”
The Trail Blazers are operating amid a tornado of questions right now. The GM was pushed out last season. Long-time team president, Chris McGowan, threw in the keys and left for another job late last year. The team is owned by a trust and must eventually be sold. Phil Knight’s group has submitted a written offer to buy it. Meanwhile, the Vulcanites are busy playing a game of semantics, insisting the NBA franchise isn't currently for sale.
The franchise needs an ownership group that will love it, nurture it and foster accountability. While fans wait, though, what they deserve is a team that is entertaining and fun on the court.
That’s why it felt nice this week to see the basketball side of the operation conduct itself professionally and tactfully. The Grant trade made sense. And I see the logic in picking a player with so much upside (Sharpe) when you’re selecting outside the top three.
The roster is Cronin’s baby now. His grade: Incomplete. But I liked what we saw from the former intern this week. It suggests he’s been paying attention.
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