There might still be over a month remaining until the NBA trade deadline officially passes on Feb. 19, but make no mistake - the league's season of wheeling and dealing has been in progress for a good long while already. That's largely due to the decisions of one man, Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. By opting to dismantle his roster and ship his solid veteran players off to contending Western Conference teams, one by one, the Boston bigwig has singlehandedly set off a mad dash for any and all playoff-bound squads to retool their rosters.
Rajon Rondo is now in Dallas. Jeff Green is in Memphis. Brandan Wright, who had just been traded for Rondo three weeks earlier, has already been rerouted to Phoenix. That's three contenders each getting a quality player just in time for the stretch run.
Which means, for everyone who hasn't yet made a move to strengthen their position for April and May, the pressure is now on. The talent pool may soon dry up. The imperative is clear - act now, or you might miss your chance.
For the Blazers, the most disappointing of the three above deals has to be the Grizzlies move. Green was a guy who could have helped Portland immeasurably as a go-to bench scorer. While Terry Stotts already has a couple of strong wing shooters in his arsenal in Allen Crabbe and Dorell Wright, Green is a different kind of player - he's a versatile three/four combo guy who can spot-up shoot, create scoring chances off the dribble and even go into the post against certain matchups. He would have helped the Blazers, no doubt. And I also don't doubt that at some point, the possibility of a Green-Blazers trade was probably discussed - in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if the early media leaks of the Memphis trade were orchestrated by Ainge in an attempt to elicit a juicier offer from someone like Neil Olshey. That's often how these things work.
But anyway. The Green ship has sailed. And I do think that between now and the 19th, the Blazers should probably take another look at the trading block and evaluate who might be out there that can fit their needs. Because look at it this way - how many guys do you think Stotts has on his roster right now that he fully, 100 percent trusts to anchor a playoff rotation? His five starters are rock-solid, plus he has reliable veterans at the guard spots (Steve Blake) and in the middle (Chris Kaman). But I think Portland could still benefit from acquiring one extra forward, preferably one with the versatility to score from multiple spots on the floor and guard two or three different positions. You want someone who can back up both LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, ideally.
Needless to say, stellar jack-of-all-trades sixth man types are not easy to pry away from teams near the trade deadline. If the Blazers do get someone, the fit might not be perfect. Still, though - this is the best chance the team has had to win a championship in this millennium, so if there's a way to go all-in for the title, you kind of have to consider it. Even if it costs you a prospect or a first-round pick, now might be the time to bite the bullet.
Without further ado, here are five names of potential Blazer trade targets over the next five weeks.
The deal: Dorell Wright, Meyers Leonard and a first-round pick to the Denver Nuggets for Chandler
Why the Blazers do it: At this juncture, Chandler is probably the best of the realistic trade options available for Portland. All of the ideal skills the Blazers are looking for, listed above, Chandler has in spades. He can create his own shot, he rebounds well for his position and he's a versatile defender that can handle just about anyone from two through four. Wright's a shooter, but Chandler's an all-around basketball player. That's a huge upgrade that's well worth a first-round pick.
Why the Nuggets do it: Pretty simple, really - they've got no hope of cracking into the playoffs in the uber-competitive Western Conference, so they might as well begin selling off pieces and collecting draft picks. They also get a quick look at Leonard, a serviceable backup big with a decent mid-range shot. Maybe he thrives in Denver with a change of scenery? It's worth a try.
The deal: Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, Will Barton and a first-round pick to the Miami Heat for Deng
Why the Blazers do it: Deng would be an incredibly versatile guy to insert into Portland's rotation. He's not the world's most dynamic scorer, but he makes up for that by being a great defender, passer and just all-around energy guy. Does all the little things. Adding a player of Deng's caliber just might be enough to put a fringe championship contender like the Blazers over the top.
Why the Heat do it: Cap space. Deng's got another year on his contract after this one, and there's really no reason for Miami to spend that $10 million in 2015-16. They tried building a new Big Three around Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Deng, and it appears that strategy won't get them much beyond a No. 8 seed in a terrible conference. They might as well deal Deng now while his value is still relatively high, then try again in the summer with a new free-agent signing. Cap space is worth more in Miami than anywhere else, because NBA players will always be enticed by the aura of Pat Riley and the sights of South Beach.
The deal: Thomas Robinson, Will Barton and a second-round pick to the Boston Celtics for Bass
Why the Blazers do it: Bass is another fairly versatile forward - he's accustomed to playing on the block and scrapping for rebounds and buckets inside, but he can also step back and hit jumpers from 12 to 15 feet with ease. Defensively, he often checks opposing power forwards, but he can also branch out a little. He guarded Carmelo Anthony decently well during the 2013 playoffs. Bass' primary role would be as a backup for LaMarcus Aldridge, but it's not inconceivable that the two could play together as well.
Why the Celtics do it: If you've been watching Ainge lately, you know why - he's in "stockpile draft picks" mode. He's been moving every veteran in sight this season in order to grab more picks, and Bass is likely the next in line. A second-round pick should be enough, plus a free look at the two youngsters isn't bad either. This seems like a solid win-win deal.
The deal: Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and a first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Green
Why the Blazers do it: Crabbe is a solid player in his role as a 3-point shooter off the bench, but Green's an upgrade. He's just as good from downtown, but he also brings a lethal ability to attack off the dribble and score. There's no one on the Portland bench that screams "instant offense!" quite like Green does, and upgrading from Crabbe to this guy might be the right move for a playoff team looking for one more key improvement.
Why the Suns do it: This depends on how long Phoenix stays competitive in the West. If they remain in the race with a real shot at the postseason, they may decide to hold onto Green, who's a better player right now than Crabbe and currently plays the role of sixth man (or seventh on some nights). But if the Suns are interested in retooling for the next couple of years, it would behoove them to nab a first-round pick and a solid young player in Crabbe who offers some upside in 2015-16 and beyond.
The deal: Will Barton and a first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for McDaniels
Why the Blazers do it: OK, this one's kind of an oddball trade.
If you haven't watched much of the Sixers this season (and obviously, I can't blame you), then lemme clue you in right quick - McDaniels is one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA this season. A 6-foot-6 wing guy, McDaniels is an incredibly energetic player who rebounds, contests shots, runs the floor and attacks the basket with impunity. He's averaging 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes as a wing guy! He'd be a major upgrade from Barton, and a real shot in the arm for a Portland bench that could use one.
Why the Sixers do it: Well, here's the thing. They probably don't. Except you never know with the Sixers, who have been in tank mode for two seasons now - are they done tanking after they make this summer's lottery pick, or does Sam Hinkie want to be atrocious for yet another year? If it's the latter, then it makes sense to ditch K.J. before he gets too good, grab that extra pick and keep rolling the rebuild back. A longshot idea, but man. A guy like McDaniels would set fire to opposing second units. Something to think about.