With a month of the NBA season in the books, Bill Simmons broke down the league with The Ringer NBA writer Kevin O’Connor in the latest episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast on Wednesday. They slotted the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 16 in their power rankings under the category of “The Trade Deadliners.”
Their discussion of Portland starts just before the 49:00 mark. One of the themes Simmons hits on is Portland’s use of Evan Turner:
I thought when they signed Evan Turner that he was going to have the ball in his hands. He doesn’t; they’re playing him off the ball, which is exactly what the 2014 Pacers did, and it was a disaster. I don’t understand why you would sign him and play him the way they’re playing him. […] The Celtics figured out how to use him perfectly, and when Portland signed him I just assumed they would use him like the Celtics did, and they’re not.
Simmons suggests that the Trail Blazers are poised to make a trade:
It just seems like they stockpiled a bunch of contracts for some kind of trade that I guess they think is going to happen at some point. Maybe it’s Brook Lopez; maybe it’s Vucevic.
He suggest the Blazers will have to think about trading McCollum since he has the most value. O’Connor compares Portland’s backcourt to Golden State’s and makes the point that Klay Thompson is a terrific defender while McCollum is not. He argues that even though both Lillard and McCollum are studs on offense, their deficiencies on defense make them not a great fit.
Simmons proposes trading Evan Turner to Sacramento for Rudy Gay:
It allows them to get out of the Turner contract. It gives them somebody with some size that can play some small ball four for them. […] If I was Portland, I would be thinking about a trade like that over cutting the cord on the McCollum/Lillard era. NBA History says you can compete with two undersized guards like this. […] You just have to have the right team around them. Right now, they don’t.
It’s an interesting proposal for the Trail Blazers. Gay, who at 30 is two years older than Turner, is averaging 19.6 points per game for the Kings while shooting a career best 40 percent from three. He’s also pulling down 6.3 rebounds per game and leads Sacramento in steals. He currently ranks 27th in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus—two spots higher than Lillard.
If the Blazers think signing Turner was a mistake, this trade would be a good way to get out of his contract. Gay is currently in the second year of a three-year contract with a player option for the 2017–18 season. His salary of $13.3 million is less than Turner’s $16.4. If Gay exercises his player option he would be owed $14.2 million next season. Turner, after this season, will cost Portland between $17.1 and $18.6 million per year through the 2019–20 season.
Trading for Gay won’t solve Portland’s problems on defense, but it would give them a very good third scorer. Let us know what you think: Would Gay be a good fit for the Blazers? Is it too early to give up on Turner?