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Portland Trail Blazers give interim GM Joe Cronin permanent post

After creating cap space and draft flexibility, could it be that the man made GM has what it takes to return the Blazers to winning ways?

Paul Rudder
Portland Trail Blazers appoint interim GM Joe Cronin as permanent manager

The Blazers aren’t just looking to solidify things on the court, but in the office as well.

Blazers interim GM Joe Cronin gets full time 4 year contract

According to a team announcement on Tuesday, the Portland Trail Blazers interim general manager Joe Cronin will now serve in a full-time capacity. Indeed, Cronin was handed a four-year contract as per reports having previously served as the Blazers’ assistant general manager prior to the dismissal of Neil Olshey last December. Olshey’s firing led to Cronin being listd as the interim GM. Cronin has been with the franchise for the last 16 years, having first joined the organization as in intern back in 2006.

As the top exec of the Blazers, Cronin spearheaded a number of trades that were most definitely centered on long term gains. During his tenure he’s not been shy about his desire to see the team rebuild around ‘franchise player’ Damian Lillard, rather than going back to the drawing board to build from zero.

The low down on Blazers GM Joe Cronin

When Cronin first took the reigns of the Blazers, many were left scratching their heads as he made some bold moves. In the name of creating salary cap space, Portland traded Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Los Angeles Clippers along with Keon Johnson - the No. 21 pick overall in the 2021 NBA draft - and a 2025 second-round pick. Where Powell was concerned, the shooting guard had been previously traded for Gary Trent Jr. on deadline day in the trade window of 2021 and then went on to re-sign a five-year, $90 million contract. Bullet dodged right? As for Covington, the 2018 All-Defensive Team player had been signed in exchange for two first-round draft picks before the 2020-21 season and was up for an extension, which he did in fact sign with the Clippers recently.

It would only be a few days later when Cronin oversaw the trading of C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans in what was most definitely a head turning deal. The NBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year in 2016 was drafted by the Blazers as the No. 10 overall pick in 2013. In 2019 the talented point guard signed a three-year, $100 million contract extension. There were also a number of other deals that left eyebrows raised such as Larry Nance Jr. - also to the Pelicans. Nance was offloaded less than six months after the Blazers offered up a first-round pick to pry him away from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then there was the deal involving Alexander-Walker and Tomáš Satoranský to the Utah Jazz for Joe Ingles’ rights and a second-round pick.

Can Joe Cronin move the Blazers forward?

While many will point to the fact that Portland’s last season was a write off, it would be unfair to not factor in the fact that between the effort to create salary cap room and a prolonged injury to star Damian Lillard, which resulted in abdominal surgery, things were tough in Portland. As if to punctuate the point the Blazers all but collapsed in their final 23 games of the season, as they posted a 2-21 record with an eventual conclusion on 27-55.This is all to say that while things may seem bleak, Cronin has actually created the very real possibility for the Blazers to move forward. Having removed a sizable chunk of the cap, Portland finally has a high draft pick coming their way along with some room ro maneuver where salaries are concerned.

It should be said that there will also be some decisions facing Cronin where some of the current crop are concerned. Anfernee Simons for example is now a restricted free agent following a stellar season. Then there is Nassir Little who is also fresh from a very impressive campaign and more importantly is up for extension. There are others of course, but here’s the thing: When teams offload players in the name of cap space, it’s not the norm that they win the following year, but when you have a center piece like Damian Lillard who has openly expressed his frustration about the lack of progress, then it becomes a different story. It’s worth noting that Lillard will be eligible for a two-year, $107 million extension in summer. What will Cronin do then?