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Stein: Trail Blazers Were Pursuing Tyson Chandler

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Prior to trading for center Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers reportedly had a different big man in mind.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Nestled deep into Zach Lowe’s Lowe Post podcast Tuesday afternoon was something that caught Lowe and probably everyone else by surprise. Marc Stein of ESPN.com stated that:

“Portland was trying and trying and trying on Tyson and couldn’t get him, and they did the Nurkic trade.”

What Stein is saying here is that prior to the deal that brought Jusuf Nurkic to the Trail Blazers, Portland was hard after Tyson Chandler of the Phoenix Suns.

That sound you hear, yeah that’s the ethereal brakes of the universe being slammed down by the basketball Gods. President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey is notoriously quiet in his dealings, but this is one of those deals that literally came out of nowhere. There had been rumblings that Portland was “tracking” Chandler, but that can be said about nearly 400 players in the NBA.

Let’s examine.

Chandler is in year two of a 4-year $52 million deal. He’s 34 years old. He has played more than 70 games in a season twice since 2008-2009. So, if you’re keeping track here; that means he costs a lot, doesn’t match Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s timeline(s), and health is definitely a concern down the stretch run of his career. Remember that Olshey sold Nurkic’s youth as a win, saying “We felt like we needed to get younger at the center position.”

What’s obviously missing here is what Portland would be sending and what else Phoenix could be sending back with Chandler. It’s hard to imagine Phoenix parting with Chandler for nothing. While he may be aging and expensive, he’s still the veteran on that roster and he’s beloved by his teammates and the coaching staff. So, what makes sense for Portland to send to Phoenix in order to consummate the deal?

First of all, at least $10 million needed to go out in order to make this deal happen. Portland is up to the edge of the luxury tax, and the slightest of margins would turn Portland into a repeat tax payer next season if the deal was a one-for-one swap of Chandler for Mason Plumlee. So, one would assume that a bigger deal was in play here. Including Allen Crabbe doesn’t make a ton a sense on a team that features Eric Bledsoe and Devin Booker.

Meyers Leonard and/or Maurice Harkless make the most sense as far as salary, age, and roster composition, as far as Phoenix is concerned. PJ Tucker has drawn interest on the trade market and Jared Dudley isn’t getting any younger, so help at the forward position is something that Phoenix would likely look toward.

Clearly it’s all speculation at this point, but a deal for Chandler has so many moving parts to it that don’t point to any logical conclusion. Perhaps the lack of a true tenured veteran in the locker room for Portland was a motivating factor in pursuing him. Maybe Chandler’s defensive acumen over a decade-plus of NBA service was enough to sway Olshey to target him. We probably won’t ever get the full story, but it’s good to know that at least the phone lines are burning up at One Center Court.