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Trail Blazers Must Shed Salary to Find a Way Forward

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Frank Urbina describes Portland’s path into mediocrity and how they might find a way out.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Sitting at 27-22, the Portland Trail Blazers are not having a bad season. Sitting at 27-22, the Portland Trail Blazers are not having that good of a season either. Frank Urbina at HoopsHype spent some time detailing Portland’s evolution into mediocrity and speculating how they might grow past it—or not.

The first part of the extensive article recounts questionable signings of summers past, including Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Festus Ezeli, and Allen Crabbe. After dipping back into the unfortunate Will Barton for Arron Afflalo trade, Urbina fast forwards to this season where Shabazz Napier and Al-Farouq Aminu provide hope...but not quite enough of it.

Then Urbina turns to the path forward.

If we look at the long-term approach, to clear up room for game-changing help this summer, the Blazers will need to find a way to get some of the bad money off their books.

However, no team in their right mind is going to want to take Turner, Harkless or Leonard’s contracts in a trade unless the Blazers attach major sweetener to the deal, either in the form of an unprotected first-round pick or their two most recent draftees, Collins or Caleb Swanigan...

As difficult a decision it may be for Portland general manager Neil Olshey, he really may not have another choice. Especially considering the Blazers are paying the luxury tax for a group with a very mundane +0.5 net rating.

Urbina also suggests that the Blazers might reach a handshake deal with impending restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic. Or, if that fails...

Trading Nurkic now would mean the Blazers won’t have to sweat out his restricted free agency, and he’s still young enough to interest other teams, especially since whoever he gets traded to will also acquire his Bird Rights. Olshey could also look to attach one of his slightly less troublesome contracts (like Ed Davis’expiring deal) to a Nurkic trade to free up more money as well.

Either way, according to Urbina, Portland’s immediate moves may be as much about what they lose as what they gain.