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NBA Trade Deadline 2018: Trail Blazers Between a Rock and the Hard Cap

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The Blazers aren’t living up to their potential and need to make moves, but can they?

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Trade Deadline 2018 is fast approaching, trade rumors are heating up, and the SBNation’s NBA sites are collaborating on a project anticipating the rush of deals and steals to come. They’re asking Blazer’s Edge and its readers to answer the following questions about the Portland Trail Blazers and their trade deadline hopes. We’ll list the questions and provide our answers; you can expand or contradict in the comments. Between us we’ll get a fuller picture of what Portland’s trade destiny might look like.

1: With the trade deadline approaching do you consider your team to be a “buyer” or a “seller”?

The Blazers are in an odd position. They should be buyers: a young team pushing for playoff seeding, trying to break through into the upper echelon of a packed conference. That was the plan, anyway. Three things are scuttling it:

  • They’re just above .500, clinging to respectability like a life ring, and have shown few signs of serious potential to move upward. Any deal that would break them out of mediocrity qualifies as a unicorn.
  • They are over the luxury tax threshold and need to move contracts in order to get under the line. They’re more likely to dump Noah Vonleh or Ed Davis for second-round picks than to acquire extra players and salary.
  • They’re upside down in the talent-vs-desirable contract ratio. Whatever the plural of “albatross” is, that describes half the roster on the trade market.

2: What are the top tradable assets on your team’s roster and/or what players are “untradeable”?

Damian Lillard is the top asset and is untradeable.

CJ McCollum is next in line. Contrary to popular belief, he could be available for the right price. The return would have to be high—almost franchise-changing—to justify the move.

Below McCollum, things get sketchy fast. Davis’ contract expires in June. Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, and Jusuf Nurkic will all be restricted free agents this summer. If the Blazers try to re-sign them all, they’ll be in tax hell. Napier and Connaughton have played well this year, but there’s not enough talent there to mortgage the franchise’s future. You’d think the Blazers would be interested in moving at least a couple of them, but Nurkic is almost certainly off the table and it’s hard to imagine the other players netting a significant return.

After that we get to Evan Turner at $17.9 million, Moe Harkless at $10.8 million, and Meyers Leonard at $10.6 million. Proposing them in trade is like walking on a small ship and announcing you have the Bubonic Plague.

The last remaining non-rookie is Al-Farouq Aminu. His $7 million contract is modest, he’s a good defender, and his three-point shooting has developed nicely this year. A contending team might be interested in his services. Trading him in the exact year he finally emerged would be painful for Portland, but it’s certainly possible.

The Blazers might be in position to rescue their bottom line with a minor move. Making a big splash will be challenging and would probably involve a serious roster overhaul.

3: What holes do you think your team would try and fill at the deadline?

If you had just walked through the desert for three weeks, eating nothing but the occasional grasshopper or cactus leaf, and the first thing you saw upon reaching civilization was a KFC, you would still not need wings as badly as the Trail Blazers do. They could use a starting power forward too.

4: What’s your “dream trade”?

Blazers trade CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns. Or the Blazers trade CJ McCollum and Shabazz Napier to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis. Or the Blazers make a trade that increases their talent and future potential while dramatically cutting their salary cap obligation. All three are equally impossible, so why not?

Go ahead and take a whack at these questions yourselves in the comment section. Be sure to check out our SBNation NBA sister sites, found in the masthead, for their answers too! Could Portland’s perfect match be lurking out there somewhere?

—Dave (blazersub@gmail.com / @blazersedge / @DaveDeckard)