Members of the Trail Blazers organization will join a long list of their peers in Las Vegas this week for the G League Winter Showcase. The four-day affair will provide teams with a look at potential candidates for 10-day contracts, and it will bring potential trade partners together. With Portland in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference, this trip to Las Vegas could open up a few new doors.
Assets, Rumors, and Trade Partners
The Blazers second unit has not been a model for consistency through the first 31 games of the season. Like the the All-Star break later this season, the G League Winter Showcase will give teams a chance to test the waters. However unlikely, Portland’s cumbersome salary cap situation can be mitigated by their war chest of first-round picks when it comes to trades.
Here are a few names that have popped up in rumors so far this year:
- Otto Porter Jr.
- J.R. Smith
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
- Jabari Parker
If the Blazers are looking to add scoring on the wing, any member of that quartet might garner interest from President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey.
Familiar Faces, Potential Depth
Of the players who are actually participating in the action on the court, guard John Jenkins is a player to watch. He has generated interest with his strong start to the year with the Westchester Knicks. Jenkins, who was a member of the Blazers’ title-winning Las Vegas Summer League squad, is a likely candidate to get a 10-day contract after Jan. 5 (when teams can officially sign players to 10-day contracts). If Portland is in need of some temporary depth in the backcourt after the first of the year, Jenkins would probably be near the top of Olshey’s list.
Outside of 10-day contract candidates, the Blazers could be on the hunt for a two-way contract player. Portland currently has two open two-way spots. Players eligible for a two-way contract must have fewer than four years of NBA experience.
There will be plenty of players to choose from, but unheralded G League rookie Haywood Highsmith should be on the Blazers’ radar. After four years at Wheeling Jesuit University (Division II), Highsmith has looked the part with the Delaware Blue Coats. He is 6’7”, active on defense, and a solid playmaker on offense.
Two-way contracts are made to take chances. Why not swing for the fences?
The Pelicans are the latest franchise to devote resources to their own G League affiliate, which leaves the Blazers and Nuggets as the only remaining teams without an exclusive partnership. The newest G League team appears to be headed to Mexico City, and it is extremely unlikely that the Blazers will be involved with the new development franchise. Olshey has expressed a desire to have an affiliate that is closer to Portland after the partnership with the Idaho Stampede dissolved back in 2014.
On top of the Blazers’ past reservations, the NBA has hinted that the team in Mexico City will not have a direct affiliate. Even without an exclusive partnership, the Blazers can utilize the “flexible assignment system” to send players to the G League.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com