The Portland Trail Blazers are looking to get better in the crowded NBA Western Conference and would welcome any trades that brought them closer to the Golden State Warriors and the conference elite. Today Blazer’s Edge reader Andrew suggests a potential target currently residing in Atlanta. If the Blazers could move Evan Turner and Caleb Swanigan for a fine defensive guard, should they do it? The Blazer’s Edge Mailbag is here to answer.
Would you trade Turner, Swanigan, and 1st for Kent Bazemore?
Bazemore is an intriguing prospect from Portland’s point of view. He’s a 6’5 swingman with a three-point shot that takes him right near the golden 40-40 line (40% of his shots attempted from distance last season, 40% of his three-pointers made). He puts out on the defensive end and, as a result, has been coveted by the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets, among others.
The biggest objection to Bazemore in the NBA at large is his contract. He will make $18.1 million this season, $19.3 million next. That seems spendy for 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists.
Your deal takes all the worry out of salary from Portland’s point of view. They’d be sending out contracts worth $19.1 million this year, $20.6 million next...more than Bazemore makes. That doesn’t include the first-round pick. The contracts for Swanigan and the draftee would outlast those of Bazemore and Turner. This wouldn’t be a concern for Atlanta, given their position and relatively easy outs if they don’t like Swanigan.
Even so, I don’t see why Atlanta does this deal. Turner and Bazemore are the main assets. They’re the same age, play the same positions, and earn about the same amount of money. Bazemore performs better and is the more valuable player. Swanigan doesn’t make up the difference.
The first-round pick is the deal sweetener, bearing the burden of making up the difference between the principals. First-rounders are coveted, the most cost-effective way of rebuilding a team. That fits Atlanta’s goals. At the same time—assuming Portland’s pick will come in the 20’s with the addition of Bazemore and will be heavily protected in case it doesn’t—that selection isn’t going to put the Blazers’ offer head and shoulders over others. A middling pick may be enough to get the Hawks to move on a Bazemore trade, but I’d be surprised if Turner and that pick were the absolute best they could do.
We also have to note an asterisk from Portland’s point of view. The Blazers are approaching a fork in the road. There’s a serious possibility that they could be in Atlanta’s position soon, needing cost-effective and proven ways to rebuild. If they aren’t sure they can retain Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum beyond 2021, they’re going to need their picks. The only thing worse than entering a cold-turkey rebuild would be entering one short a draft opportunity.
Bazemore’s contract expiring in 2020 may complicate the situation further. From a pure financial perspective, letting him go after his deal would be a no-brainer. Giving up a first-rounder for him makes that decision tougher.
Letting Bazemore walk after his current deal expires would also signal surrender to Portland’s starting guards just when the Blazers need to convince them that the future is bright. They’d face considerable pressure to re-sign Bazemore to another significant contract, which would undoubtedly run multiple years. If they did get roped into re-signing Baze in 2020, then Lillard and McCollum left anyway in 2021, they’d have lost a cheap draft asset and eaten up cap space for years to come in exchange for a very nice complementary player who won’t ultimately make enough difference to justify either cost.
Personally, I would do this deal for the short-term benefit. It’s the kind of move people have wanted the Blazers to make for a couple seasons now. I would also understand totally if it didn’t work for either team for the reasons listed above. Portland’s clear gains this year get murky later; Atlanta’s long-term advantage may not weigh as much as the perceived value of Bazemore.
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