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Exploring Trail Blazers Trade Scenarios

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Readers have questions about everybody from hot shooting guards to former team members. What could the Blazers work out at the trade deadline?

NBA: Utah Jazz at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers trade rumors, queries, machinations, and pleadings have been filling up the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag inbox for the last week straight. There’s no possible way to cover all of them, but here’s an in-depth look at a couple of the saner suggestions that haven’t been addressed much yet. (i,e. No DeAndre Jordan here.)

Dave,

Is it possible for the Blazers to snag Rodney Hood at the trade deadline? Seems like Hood would fill the Blazers needs at the wing and three point shooting. This is the kind of player worth a first rounder if the team can resign him in the offseason.

Best,

Trey

Hood does tick off plenty of boxes. A 6’8” shooting guard who doesn’t demand possessions (beyond reason) would provide contrast in Portland’s lineup. As you mention, Hood can hit a three...a must for anyone considering coming into the Blazers system. He’s consistent from all ranges and can fill 25-30 minutes per game. Injuries and defense are the main on-court concerns, but hey...you can’t have everything. Evan Turner wouldn’t be happy about this move, but everybody else should be.

The Blazers should be willing to pay Utah’s asking price of a first-round pick. Hood averages 17 ppg in the NBA. If Portland drafts in the mid-first-round, they’d be looking at guys who don’t average much more than that in college. At 25, Hood fits into their age range and growth curve.

Two issues are going to make this deal difficult. First, Hood becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the year. The cap hold on his contract will be a non-issue, but the Blazers are carrying four RFA’s already in Jusuf Nurkic, Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, and Noah Vonleh. Even assuming they trade or release two of those players, that barely makes room for signing Hood to a reasonable contract, let alone re-signing the other two restricted guys.

Second, the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, and Oklahoma City Thunder reportedly covet Hood. That presents an immediate problem for Portland: they’d need to make the most attractive offer. Even if the Blazers managed it, rival suitors would also factor into Hood’s restricted free agency. The Bulls will have oodles of money available in July. If Carmelo Anthony and Paul George abandon ship, the Thunder will too. If those teams miss out on Hood at the trade deadline, what’s to stop them from offering him an overpriced contract that the Blazers would have a hard time matching this summer? Portland could lose their first-round pick only to end up at a nasty decision point: committing themselves to another eight-figure contract for a bench player or waving goodbye to the guy they traded their first-round pick for. Losing Hood after spending a pick for him would be a disaster, but so would paying $30 million combined for Turner and Hood to play the same reserve role, probably not together. That would also leave the Blazers paying $80 million—roughly 80% of the salary cap—for their four guards alone. Yikes.

By the way, the article from the Salt Lake Tribune cited above says that teams are also interested in Jazz shooting guard Alec Burks but are shying away because of his contract. Burks is owed $10.8 million this year and $11.5 million next. That might provide perspective on Portland’s chances of moving Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, or Turner, all of whom draw comparable or larger salaries from contracts that run a year longer than Burks’ does.

Hey Dave,

I see that Robin Lopez might be available. What do you think about the blazers trading to get him back to backup Nurk? The trade I have in my mind would be to send both Leonard and Vonleh to make the salaries work and perhaps a 1st or 2nd round pick as a sweetener since Chicago would have to take on an extra year of salary for Leonard.

Chicago is in a different place right now and Leonard and Vonleh would get a chance to prove themselves there while the blazers get a backup center who we know can play and is a fan favorite. Not to mention it would also give the blazers flexibility to decide whether or not to trade Ed Davis because then we could have a reliable backup center no matter what. I think giving up a 1st for that in a Rolo trade would be worth it if Chicago would be interested.

What do you think?

Thanks,

Andrew

This season, you might be able to get away with it. You’d have another veteran, Davis, who was not happy with the move at all. Other than that, it’s gravy. Lopez is nowhere near Davis’ overall rebounding production, but he’s good on the offensive glass. Even more shocking, he’s shooting a higher percentage than Nurkic from every single range on the floor. He’s a big body on defense and enough of a veteran to fill the role the Blazers would ask of him.

There’s not much short-term downside for Portland in your proposal. Once again, summer would expose the flaws in the plan.

The Blazers are telegraphing that they’re all but done with Vonleh. If they’re willing to ink him to anything but the qualifying offer, I’d be shocked. I’d be semi-shocked if they even went that far. Absent Noah, the Blazers would be balancing Leonard’s $10.6 million salary against the $14.4 million Lopez would earn next year. $4 million doesn’t seem like a lot, but paying even that much more would force them to make choices about the players they’d retain.

Portland would sit at $114 million in guaranteed salaries with Lopez in the fold. Keeping Nurkic is a must in this scenario. Even if they got Nurk for a relatively cheap $10 million per, now they’re at $124 million—higher than they are this year and presumably in tax territory—and that’s without Napier, Connaughton, or Jake Layman on the books. Every dollar spent to retain those players would cost the Blazers an extra $1.50-$1.75 after penalties, maybe $2.50 if they got outlandish. (Lest you think $4 million extra is inconsequential, the Luxury Tax Penalty ladder ramps up in $5 million increments. Your first $4 million contract over the threshold costs $10 million total in salary and penalties.)

If Portland decided to retain all those players, they’d be paying more than they’re dishing out this year for essentially the same team, with Lopez filling the hole left by Davis departing. While the idea of Lopez returning is fun, maybe functional too, it’s unlikely Lopez would make enough difference to fundamentally change the course of the team. The Blazers would be paying out millions more in real money for close to the same number of wins, plus a lot of awesome comic book references.

If the Blazers kept financial integrity by dropping all those players in order to make room for Lopez, we’d have to start looking at the roster cost...less talent than age. Lopez is 29 and should have several good years left, but he’s only signed through the summer of 2019. Would the Blazers re-sign him at $12-14 million per year after that? If not, they would have dropped a first-round pick, plus a couple of 25-26 year old players in Connaughton and Napier, to get 1.5 years of Lopez. And really, they have Ed Davis filling the reserve center role right now, so they’d be benefiting most from a single year of Lopez, but sacrificing three young guys to get it. Even if we don’t think much of Napier and Connaughton, the draft pick is probably worth more than that.

Notice that we haven’t lamented the loss of Leonard and Vonleh yet. They’re 25 and 22, respectively. Technically that would make five young players (including the pick) traded away for a Lopez rental. I’m not inclined to take it that far because Leonard and Vonleh barely qualify as “on the roster” anymore. The Blazers would probably jump at the chance to offload one of those weighty, three-year deals. Chicago might see things differently. After this season, they owe Lopez $14.4 million. They’d owe Leonard $21.9 million...and that’s without re-signing Vonleh. First-rounders are a hot commodity, so that might tip the scales for them, but I wouldn’t spend the extra money and cap flexibility on a deal like this if I were them.

This proposal illustrates nicely that just because assets balance doesn’t mean the trade is good. In many ways, it’d be a questionable deal for both sides, despite also carrying benefits.

Dave,

When will we use the trade exception we got for Allen Crabbe?

Curious Onlooker

At some point, Portland would need Carl Sagan to tally up their tax burden after taking on a big salary for nothing, so I’m going to say, “Never”. They could use a small part of it to take a flyer on a cheaper player, but I’m guessing they’ll want to unload contracts rather than take them on.

The more interesting permutation would be if they got lucky, ridding themselves of one of those middling-expensive contracts for next to nothing. They they’d able to shop for smaller contracts that wouldn’t push them above the tax threshold using the trade exception.

Dave,

What are the chances that the Blazers make a deal at the deadline?

Bobby

I’d say its near certain that they make some kind of deal. They almost have to. But I’d give a 75% chance that it’s a minor, cap-clearing move, another 21% or so that it’s a move that they think makes them better but isn’t major, and only 4% or less that they can find a miracle trade that makes a big difference.

We’ll all know by Thursday, if not sooner. In the meantime, keep sending those Mailbag questions to blazersub@gmail.com!

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge / blazersub@gmail.com