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The Portland Trail Blazers Trade Manual

Here are the things the Blazers will need to consider, and look for, as they contemplate the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

With the trade deadline approaching, my inbox is overflowing with trade suggestions for the Portland Trail Blazers. To make things easy, here's a trade manual for Deadline 2016, detailing not only individual trades but the general principles which should guide the Blazers as they make trade decisions.

If you have a Blazers-related question you'd like us to answer, send it to blazersub@gmail.com.

On to the deals!

Veteran Stars

Dave,

Dwight Howard? I hadn't thought of that! Do you really think he'd be a good pickup for the Blazers?

Marcus

Hello Dave: The only guy I can see the Blazers actually using and providing cap relief to a tanking team might be Brook Lopez. I wouldn't give up CJ for him, but do you think Brooklyn would trade him for someone else on the Blazer roster that we might be willing to give up?

Cheers, Jerry

Dave,

With news that Al Horford might be available from the Hawks what do you think about the Blazers picking him up cheap?  I'd do it!

Gladstone Jack

First of all, Gladstone Jack is a sweet name.

You could make a case for Howard in Portland. The Blazers could probably give him more field goal attempts than he's getting with Houston. If he'd be OK with the occasional pick-and-roll play and plenty of offensive rebounding, he'd fit in just fine. But Dwight has a player option on his contract this summer, meaning he can become an unrestricted free agent. He left Orlando without blinking and he had strong ties there. If he didn't leave Portland in the lurch, he'd at least make them pay full price to retain him. My financial experts tell me that this would require approximately $52 bazillion in cap space. Modify your estimate of his worth accordingly.

I don't think the Blazers can get Lopez without giving up one of their guards. He has enough flaws in his game (and is offensively-oriented enough) that I wouldn't see him as a game-changing upgrade from McCollum.

Horford would make more sense, perhaps. I trust his health a little more and his dedication to the game (as opposed to his stardom) seems slightly stronger than Howard's. Plus Horford has a three-point shot now...shiny and welcome in Portland.

That said, Howard and Horford are examples of players the Blazers need to chase as free agents, not trade prospects. Portland has enough cap space to sign either, should they so desire. The key to nabbing premium free agents is convincing them that their presence will push the team into the NBA Finals, if not to a championship. This is quite distinct from saying they will help the team get closer to contending, which is the only pitch the Blazers could offer now. If Horford is the target (or...erp...Howard) Portland needs to make a much bigger splash than they're currently making. That probably means trading for a big-time player whose contract isn't expiring in order to lure the ones whose contracts do expire this summer. Making an isolated move for a guy who could leave in three months is just asking for heartbreak.

As we mentioned in Tuesday's edition of the Blazer's Edge Podcast, Howard might be valuable as a lever to move a more complex deal, provided he could be obtained without losing Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum. If the Blazers could get Dwight for spare parts big men--if Houston were convinced that he wouldn't re-sign or didn't want him--a package of Howard and McCollum might draw players than McCollum alone couldn't.

Since we're talking big men...obtaining a high-profile center would be more valuable to Portland right now than players at any other position for a couple reasons:

1. Centers don't tend to eat as many shots as forwards and guards, alleviating the, "Where are my touches going to come from?" concerns of other premium free agents who might balk at joining a Lillard-McCollum-based trio.

2. Many of the best free agents are forwards. With a Lillard-Crabbe backcourt and a center in tow, small forward and power forward remain wide open.

Other Veterans

Dave,

Any chance Olshey can get ahold of Tyson Chandler before the trade deadline?

Andrew

Maybe? But why?

Chandler is the prime example of a veteran player who would make the team better without any real gain. If the Blazers are going to trade assets or commit cap space they need to make sure the move either puts them ahead of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs (et al.) or facilitates another move that does. Unless that's true, a move like that takes away resources for no permanent gain.

Sure, the Blazers could climb to the 5th or 4th seed in the West over the next couple years. What does that matter? After the initial rush of good feeling the first time they make the leap, they still lose. In the long view frustration at not making the playoffs and frustration at getting eliminated from them differ only by virtue of timing. Nobody's going to be happy going out in the second round or even in the Conference Finals. Why make moves just to delay sadness three weeks? Only NBA Finalists get remembered.

Guys like Chandler are great when they're one of the final pieces of the puzzle. Chandler is no longer a young building block, though, nor will his presence convince a star free agent to sign in Portland if he wouldn't have already. Right now Chandler would take up $13 million in cap room that could have been used chasing a bigger dream. The Blazers need to trade for him--and players like him--when they're over the cap, not under.

Younger Players

Hi Dave,

What do you think about Markieff Morris? The guy is multi-skilled, has range and shoots 75% from the line. He's a cancer on the Suns but I think he'd be happy in the flow offense. Would the Suns bite on some combination of Meyers-Harkless-Vonleh plus a draft pick, and would you do the trade?

Thanks,

Emil
(Blazers fan from Manila)

G'day Dave,

Greetings from the land down under. I'll get straight to my question. Gorgui Dieng, with the blazers undoubtedly needing more defense in the paint is swinging a trade for the blocking machine from our division rivals a good choice. From fit purpose only, trading say CJ McCollum for Dieng and perhaps a second round pick or cash works well for both teams. I know CJ is having a wonderful season and playing much better then Dieng who is struggling to get minutes in a crowded and talented wolves front court. But at this stage as they say you can't teach size and bigs get paid and Portland could deffinently use his interior Defense. So what's your perspective on trading McCollum while his stock is high before we have to pay close to max to keep a clone of Lillard.

Regards,

Luke

I also received a question about Festus Ezeli, which I lost some how in my mailbox. You'd think that'd be an easy search, but no dice. We'll include him anyway.

Here we're talking about players who are always under consideration: young, talented, and on early contracts which make them relatively cheap. The Blazers picked up a ton of these guys last summer and they're still in the market. The key questions with these guys: How much will it take to get them? How much will you have to pay them down the road and when will the bill rise?

Markieff Morris is clearly the most offensively talented of the trio mentioned and he's already locked into a reasonable $8 million per year contract. Having endured plenty of shenanigans from him, including this bench fight with a teammate last night, the Phoenix Suns would probably trade him for a couple of Advil right now. But Morris' antics wouldn't play well in Portland. He makes Boogie Cousins look like Dr. Laura. The team can absorb a borderline headcase or two in the name of talent but Morris has too much of the former, not enough of the latter.

Dieng would be an interesting get if the Timberwolves would be willing to part with him. I think they'd do that as part of a larger package deal but I have a hard time seeing them swapping him straight up for another prospect. Plus you have to ask if the Blazers need another rim-based PF/C with Ed Davis in tow. (Though Dieng is spreading his game out a little. Hmmm...) If enough pieces shifted around this summer to justify Dieng and if he didn't cost a fortune, he'd be more than welcome.

The same holds true of Ezeli, with the caveat that the Golden State Warriors are making everybody look better than they actually are, so caution is warranted when considering one of their players. But Ezeli should be semi-immune to that effect. If there's a problem, it's Elezi's impending restricted free agency. His paycheck shouldn't be huge but if the Blazers are trying to lure free agents with their cap space, cap holds and poison offers from other teams are a concern.

Who Would the Blazers Move?

The million dollar question in any proposed trade is who the Blazers would offer in return. For star players, the answer is clear: the Blazers would need to part with one of their starting guards. That's highly unlikely.

After that, the options become limited. Having picked up every young, underpaid player they could get their hands on last summer, flush with oodles of cap space now, and with no non-transformative-star path into the deep playoffs in front of them, the Blazers lack the usual motivators for deal making. They can't get much younger, they can't save money, and they aren't looking for the final veteran pieces of the puzzle yet. The only kind of non-star deal that makes sense in that environment is acquiring a carefully-targeted player--presumably a young guy--they're hot on.

If that player suits up for a playoff-bound team currently, Gerald Henderson might be a desirable trade piece. Chris Kaman isn't. Either way, both hold expiring contracts. Nobody's going to trade a player with a bright future for guys they can't keep past this summer. Chances are the Blazers would have to give more.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis make $7.6 and $6.6 million respectively, Aminu through 2019, Davis through 2018. Even though his skill set is somewhat out of style, Davis is probably the more attractive of the two. Both players have more value to the Blazers right now than they're likely to have to other teams.

Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee are on rookie contracts. Vonleh's trade value seems negligible, but Plumlee could draw interest as a $2 million center. Then you have to ask what kind of incoming player would provide more service to the Blazers than Plumlee does. Plumlee makes more sense as a throw-in to a huge deal than as a major plank of a smaller one.

That leaves the three players who are up for qualifying offers this summer: Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, and Moe Harkless. Crabbe's salary is negligible; presumably he'd only be moved for a super sweet deal. But Leonard and Harkless will take up $12 million in cap holds if they become restricted free agents, then cost whatever another team will offer them. If the Blazers don't want to mess with that, they have incentive to move them now. Harkless has modest value; Leonard is a wildcard. Either way, their names should be underline and a watch kept during any trade negotiations the Blazers enter into.

The NBA Trade Deadline hits Thursday, February 18th at noon, Pacific, 3 p.m. Eastern.

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