The Portland Trail Blazers spent the summer stockpiling young players on long contracts. The team appears primed to make a "consolidation" trade for a third star to play alongside the starting backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. But does President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey have the right assets to pull off such a deal?
Today, Blazer's Edge reviews the recent history of All-Star trades and assesses whether or not Portland could put together a similar trade package.
Feb. 1, 2008: Pau Gasol to the Lakers
Lakers acquire: Pau Gasol, second-round round pick
Lakers relinquish: Kwame Brown's expiring contract, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, rights to Marc Gasol, 2008 and 2010 non-lottery first-round picks
Who won this trade in hindsight?: Push; one of the most equitable All-Star trades ever. Pau Gasol completed the Lakers' rebuild nearly four years after trading Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat, and helped lead the team to three consecutive finals appearances (2008-2010). The Grizzlies unexpectedly salvaged this trade when Marc Gasol lost 30+ pounds and became an All-Star, despite doing little with the cap space provided by Brown's contract.
Could the Blazers match this deal?: Probably. The Blazers could easily match the two late-first rounders the Lakers gave up, and the low-end value of Crittenton, McKie, and Gasol. They could not offer cap space via expiring contracts, but could sub in either Moe Harkless or Meyers Leonard on reasonable deals if one or both of those players continues to improve this season. With the salary cap still rising, some rebuilding teams might find those affordable multi-year contracts more appealing than cap space. The Blazers could also offer cap relief by agreeing to take back a cumbersome contract.
Feb. 22, 2011: Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks
Knicks acquire: Carmelo, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams, Corey Brewer
Outgoing: Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Eddy Curry, two second rounders, 2014 lottery pick, option to swap picks in 2016
Who won this trade in hindsight?: Neither team. Denver picked up literally half a roster in assets, plus cap space, and draft picks, but they have not parlayed the haul into success. Meanwhile, the Knicks have been a .500 club with Anthony and failed to make the Eastern Conference Finals.
Could the Blazers match this offer?: Probably not. They lack the lottery pick and a trade of this magnitude would completely overhaul the team's roster. Given the value they have placed on continuity it seems unlikely.
Feb. 23, 2011: Deron Williams to the Nets
Nets acquire: Deron Williams
Nets relinquish: Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, 2011 lottery pick, 2013 top-7 protected pick, cash
Who won this trade in hindsight?: Jazz. The 2011 lottery pick turned into Enes Kanter and they used the player they chose in 2013 (Gorgui Dieng) to acquire Trey Burke. Meanwhile, Deron Williams suffered through several injuries and never matched the "Is he better than Chris Paul?" peak from his time in Utah. Our SBN sister blog Nets Daily still laments the trade five years later.
Could the Blazers match this offer?: No. Olshey could match the 2013 pick the Nets gave up, but he does not have a lottery pick available to match the 2011 first rounder the Nets acquired. At the time, Devin Harris was also less than two years removed from a 2009 All-Star appearance and in need of a change of scenery. The Blazers have nobody on their roster who can match Harris' value, other than Lillard or McCollum. The Blazers could match the value offered by Favors, but without a match for the lottery pick or Harris, this trade isn't getting done.
Dec. 14, 2011: CP3 to the Clippers
Clippers acquire: Chris Paul, two second-round picks
Clippers Relinquish: Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, 2012 lottery pick
Who won this trade in hindsight?: Clippers. Gordon never blossomed into an All-Star and the Pelicans have never managed to use their cap space wisely. If not for the Anthony Davis draft pick they might be one of the most downtrodden franchises in the league. That said, it is worth noting the Pelicans had their hand forced: Paul had only 1.5 seasons left on his contract and was likely leaving in July, 2013.
Could the Blazers match this offer?: No. The Blazers have no lottery pick to surrender and cannot match Gordon's 20+ ppg/fringe All-Star potential with anyone other than Lillard and McCollum.
Oct. 27, 2012: James Harden to the Rockets
Rockets acquire: James Harden, Cole Aldrich, Lazar Hayward, Daequan Cook
Rockets relinquish: Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, 2013 lottery pick, 2014 non-lottery first-round pick, 2013 second-round pick
Who won this trade, in hindsight?: Rockets. The emergence of Steven Adams has recently helped dull the pain, but giving up an All-NBA-level talent for spare parts and draft picks is never going to look good after the fact.
Could the Blazers match this offer?: It depends on how much the opposing team values a lottery pick. The Blazers could match Martin's expiring contract with some combination of Aminu, Davis, and Plumlee. They could equal Lamb's "potential" with just about anyone. But they have no lottery picks to send back. The other team would need to see lottery pick value in one of the Blazers recently signed free agents. For that to happen, someone from the Turner/Crabbe/Harkless/Leonard free agent haul is going to have to exceed expectations this season.
Aug. 23, 2014: Kevin Love to the Cavaliers
Cavs acquire: Kevin Love
Cavs relinquish: Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, non-lottery first-round pick
Who won this trade in hindsight?: Push. Love has mostly been a disappointment in Cleveland, but Wiggins, while showing promise, has not risen to the pre-draft perennial All-Star expectations. It's fair to say that this trade was a push, given that the Cavs just won an NBA championship, and the Timberwolves have put themselves into prime position to become a winner around the Wiggins/Towns core.
Could the Blazers match this deal?: Not a chance. Short of reversing course on their long-term commitment to McCollum, the Blazers lack a blue-chip All-Star prospect to make a trade like Love-for-Wiggins.
Based on the list above, trades for All-Star-caliber players involve some combination of three assets:
- Lottery picks. Every trade listed, except the Gasol trade, involved a team sending out at least one lottery pick.
- A player with All-Star pedigree (Harris), or All-Star potential (Wiggins, Galinari, Gordon)
- Expiring contracts (Brown, Martin, Kaman, Curry)
Of those three types of assets, the Blazers can match the cap space with some combination of Aminu, Plumlee, and Davis. They could also agree to take back an unappealing contract in lieu of offering an expiring deal.
Portland, however, does not have lottery picks or an All-Star-caliber player to surrender. In place of those assets, the Blazers have their recently signed group of four role players. For a trade to work, one of those players is going to have to significantly improve and outperform his contract, or Olshey is going to have to construct a trade with a truly innovative structure.
The bottom line is that the Blazers aren’t the first team with multiple picks in the 20-30 range and a plethora of tradeable role players. But that type of package has not been enough to snag an all-star in recent history. It's going to take a major paradigm shift in how trades are negotiated for the Blazers to get another all-star in trade. Thus, if the Blazers can pull off a consolidation trade it’s likely going to be for a sub-all star caliber starter who can act as a true third option; someone in the mold of Nic Batum or Chandler Parsons.
It's also worth noting that every single one of the acquired stars had less than 16 months left on his contract at the time of the trade and all but Gasol still netted a large return. It seems unlikely that a low-ball offer will pry loose a star player, even if his contract is ending soon. Additionally, even if the Blazers pull off a deal like this, they will likely need to re-sign their newly acquired star shortly thereafter.