Let's start this Christmas week with a Mailbag dedicated to your trade questions.
Looks like Brookyln wants to clean house. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez might be available. Could you see any of them on the Blazers? Could we get them?
You're thinking big there. Those 3 players have earned 11 All-Star appearances and each has made the All-Star team at least once since 2012. If the Nets are looking to clear them off the books everybody around the league will take at least a passing glance.
Williams is probably the biggest name among the three. He's attempting 1/3 of his shots from beyond the arc and hitting 38% of them...not bad from Portland's point of view. He's neither as efficient or prolific as he was in his mid-20's but he's a good player. He'd be incredible insurance against a backcourt injury. With 10 seasons, 63 playoff starts, and nearly 2500 playoff minutes under his belt he'd provide saltiness to Portland's meaty lineup.
Johnson has appeared in more All-Star games than Williams, earning the honor in 7 out of the last 8 seasons. 30% of his total shots come from three-point range and he makes them at a 39% clip. He's also a good percentage shooter overall. He's not a point guard but he's a decent passer for a 2-guard. Even if he didn't give the Blazers quite as much flexibility to fiddle with backcourt lineups as Williams would, He'd understand Portland's system and fit in immediately. Johnson has played in 81 playoff games with over 3100 playoff minutes logged.
Playing time would become a big issue for either guard in Portland. Both average 35 minutes per game with Brooklyn. Even if you cut the minutes of Damian Lillard or Wesley Matthews down to 30 (a significant reduction) and gave either player all the bench minutes available, that leaves 18...halving their current habit. You might be able to jimmy Williams into third-guard shoes and get him more time with Lillard on the floor but it still wouldn't be the big-minute, starting role he's used to. I don't see either player being happy with second fiddle. I don't see the Blazers trading away Lillard or Matthews to make room for them either.
Salary provides an even bigger obstacle than playing time. Williams makes $20 million this year. His contract continues through 2016-17, peaking at $22 million. Johnson makes $23 million this year, $25 million next.
Let's say the Blazers had room in the lineup, didn't mind dedicating over $20 million to a single bench spot, and were willing to absorb the luxury tax hit that would surely be coming on the heels of the trade. Even with all that resolved, how would the Blazers swing a deal for either guy? Those huge contracts provide incentive for Brooklyn to dump salary, but they also mandate over $16 million in expiring contracts going back to the Nets. The Blazers can't come up with that much ballast. Chris Kaman makes $5 million, Dorell Wright and Joel Freeland $3 million, Meyers Leonard and Steve Blake $2 million. You could package all 5 guys together and still not be up to Williams' level, let alone Johnson's.
It's all but impossible to consummate these deals without including Matthews for salary purposes. Given the age gap that's probably a no-go. The Blazers could re-sign Matthews next summer for less than either veteran guard is making, assured of a perfect fit and another 4-5 years of prime-career service that Johnson and Williams just couldn't give.
If you're going to speculate on a Nets deal, the big dream would be to re-unite the Lopez brothers. Salary isn't as big of a barrier here. Brook makes $16 million this year with a player option next season at $17 million. The Blazers would only need to come up with $13-ish million in salary to make a Lopez trade work. Since they're getting a center in return instead of a guard, they could freely trade some of their higher-salary bench bigs to do it. Brook might be willing to platoon with his twin brother and vice-versa. This deal makes sense in ways that Williams and Johnson don't.
Except...Brook Lopez is having a pretty bad year compared to his norm, almost to the point of falling off a cliff. He's not bad but he's nowhere near the magnificent specimen we're used to. His offense is hit and miss (heavy on the miss) and defense has never been his strong point. Portland would be trading for what they'd hope he'd become, not what he is today.
If the Blazers assess Brook's difficulties as injury-related and curable, they'd be fools not to pursue the possibility. But the Blazers have also monkeyed around with enough injured centers to know that nothing is sure. The price would need to be reasonable. At 26 and playing a rare position, Lopez may have the most trade value of the three players you've named. Whether the Nets would let him go for a bald salary dump--especially if they couldn't also move Williams and Johnson--is debatable.
All three Brooklyn-related suggestions have merit, but the common ground upon which a deal could be forged is pretty narrow. Chances are slim that the Blazers could acquire any of these players without a major roster overhaul.
Trade season is upon us. There is obviously going to be speculation on potential Blazer moves, but the team doesn't necessarily need to make a move. I get the sense that Olshey's plan is better described as "opportunistic" rather than "aggressive," and he'll only make a move if it is a clear upgrade for what the Blazers currently have. That being said, the Hornets have Lance Stephenson available in a trade, ready to go in another direction because he doesn't fit with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. Lance would be a clear upgrade to the Blazers' bench; a reserve unit of Lance, Blake, Crabbe, and Kaman would be a killer. What is the likelihood the Blazers could acquire him as their nominal 6th Man for this year and next year? Would they need to get a third team involved? Lance only makes nine million, so he's affordable and a realistic target. In my estimation it would take at least giving up the Blazers' first round pick this year, CJ McCollum, and some combination of Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Dorell Wright.
I've long been on the record saying that every team can absorb one crazy guy and the Blazers haven't filled their quota yet. I'd be willing to take a chance on a reclamation project/head case if talent and fit were right. I'm not sure Stephenson qualifies.
At the peak of his career last year in Indiana, Lance shot 35% from the arc. This year he's shooting 15%. His overall shooting percentage hovers just below 39% and this True Shooting Percentage is so low that we can't print it publicly. You'll have to add it to cart in order to see the number.
I don't want to discount Stephenson's defensive ability, because he's got some. But the Blazers also have some in Matthews and Nicolas Batum. Plus Lance's offensive selection is positively un-Portland-ish. The Blazers thrive on knowing what all 5 of their guys will do 3 steps down the road. You never know what Lance is going to do. He isn't J.R. Smith-level loose, but he hasn't had Smith's freedom either.
Like the Nets' guards, Stephenson is used to 33-35 minutes a game. That's an issue as well.
Defense, talent-to-salary ratio, and insurance against Matthews getting too expensive are the main reasons to trade for Lance Stephenson, The Blazers need all three of those things but Stephenson isn't the right package for them to come in, at least not at this point. If and when Matthews departs, that's another story. But I don't see jumping the gun on that. Stephenson is as likely to mess up Portland's chemistry as to help them win games.
I don't like to spend the entire Mailbag shooting down other people's trade ideas, so I'll share a couple guys who would be on my wish list (albeit becoming an increasingly far-fetched one compared to the start of the season).
The absolute, prime, first guy I'd ask Santa Claus for is Nikola Mirotic from Chicago. Unfortunately he's becoming too popular and too good to make a trade work reasonably, but I dream of what might have happened this summer. As good as Mirotic has been with the Bulls, his potential under Terry Stotts makes me drool hard enough to short out my keyboard.
Mirotic is listed as a power forward but he could probably play center off Portland's bench as well. He can shoot three-pointers, rebound, pass, and as Blazer fans have seen when their team met the Bulls, the guy can run. His offensive versatility would make him a natural in Portland. He'd help the team and the system would end up helping him. I would give a lot for this guy. I could see him being a star and every bit as important to a smart, unselfish team as Manu Ginobili ended up being for the Spurs.
The other guy I'd be interested in: K.J. McDaniels in Philly. He's gotten some mention in our comment section and it's worth it. The offense isn't quite there yet for the rookie but his defense shows nice flashes and he's plenty athletic. Allen Crabbe may end up being a smarter-version shooting guard than McDaniels, but I'd like to give the kid a couple years to develop.
I'd also like the Blazers to keep an eye on Toronto forward Patrick Patterson. I have this thing for Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni as well, though that may be more of a personal quirk.
Go ahead and suggest trades (obvious or unusual) in the comment section if you wish. You can send your own Mailbag questions to email@example.com or leave a voicemail question for our weekly podcast at 234-738-3394.
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