The Portland Trail Blazers have been connected with several need-filling players thought to be on the outs with their current team— particularly in the frontcourt. But what about Portland's trade assets?
The Vertical's Bobby Marks came through with a prescient piece of analysis, breaking down Portland's roster, needs, trade assets, and the likelihood of a deal. He also analyzed the Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings, two of the teams the Trail Blazers are battling with to make the playoffs. He thinks the big moves will be a ways away for Portland.
The heavy lifting in Portland will likely occur in the summer and not at the trade deadline.
Faced with the prospect of having the top payroll in the NBA next season, Portland will have the opportunity to shed contracts this summer when their own players have less money and years remaining on their deals.
Allen Crabbe can veto any trade he doesn't like until late July due to Portland matching the offer sheet from Brooklyn last summer. CJ McCollum, an unlikely candidate to get dealt anyway, has a poison pill provision in his contract, which significantly lowers the number of teams Portland can make a deal with this season due to the salary restrictions involved for both sides of any potential deal.
Translation: don't hold your breath on a major deal in the next few weeks.
Another important note from Marks that we would do well to remember is that the value of Portland's two first round picks will only increase as we get closer to the draft itself, when teams can see guys workout.
One final note on the Blazers before we move on to the teams in their vicinity is a sobering one from Marks; especially for those who want the Blazers to take a flier on Larry Sanders, who is reportedly ready to come back to the NBA.
The Trail Blazers, currently $27,000 below the luxury tax, will need to remain vigilant to stay below the tax.
Portland is projected to be a tax team in future years, and the one thing it cannot afford to do is set the wheels in motion to become a repeater tax team three years from now.
I know, I know. It's just Paul Allen's money. I just can't see Allen green-lighting an early start to their luxury tax cycle on a team that will, at least this season, top out as the 8th seed.
The Blazers cannot pay Sanders and also avoid paying the luxury tax this season. Olshey's track record in Portland is also one of fiscal responsibility, including taking on salary at the deadline last season to get closer to the salary floor to save $8 million. They're not cheap, but they also are not ones to spend money they don't need to spend.
Of the teams that are in Portland's vicinity in the standings, the Nuggets are the one with the most interesting batch of assets to make something happen.
The Nuggets have a little bit of everything: Multiple first-round picks this year (their own and Memphis’), cap space ($19 million) to absorb a contract, and six players on value contacts that were drafted in the first or second round.
Besides the young core, the Nuggets’ roster is filled with players who average $8.2 million in salary and are under contract for multiple years (Danilo Gallinari has a player option for 2017-18).
According to Marks, only Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray should be off the table for Denver. That means that pretty much everyone else on their team a candidate to be dealt. The Nuggets have a lot of assets, but also appear to be in a constant state of flux, as evidenced by the fact it took so long to realize Jokic was their best player. However, as Marks noted, the Nuggets have been very active at the trade deadline over the last few seasons and still have all the assets to make waves.
As for the Kings, their situation more closely resembles Portland's than it does Denver's. It's just worse. The injury to Rudy Gay took their best trade asset out of play and they cannot trade a first-rounder until 2021. They also have Omri Casspi and Ty Lawson on expiring deals, as well as a major glut in the front court, behind Cousins, who is eligible to sign a $200 million extension this offseason, and is reportedly leaning toward signing it.
It's going to be an interesting deadline for all the teams fighting for the final playoff spot in the West. Just don't expect the biggest fireworks in February to come from Tualatin.