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Trail Blazers Need to Play NBA Trade Deadline Conservatively

While a flashy move may be appealing, Portland would be wise to sacrifice a quick fix in favor of looking to the future in an ever-changing Western Conference landscape.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

With the February 7th NBA Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, the Portland Trail Blazers will have decisions to make. The team currently sits in the middle of a crowded Western Conference playoff race, and could be presented with an opportunity to bolster their roster prior to the deadline. However, by doing so, they could risk mortgaging their future in pursuit of an extremely unlikely championship run this season.

The Golden State Warriors are the clear-cut favorite to win their third-straight title, and are further bolstered by the the addition of DeMarcus Cousins. However, things could look a lot different in the bay next season—given the impending free agency of Cousins, Klay Thompson, and most notably, Kevin Durant. For Portland, the best course of action is likely to not do anything too drastic come February, unless a potential deal would benefit the team for the foreseeable future. If the Warriors end up losing any of their key pieces, the Western Conference could very well be up for grabs again.

Simply put, this is not the season to give up a promising young player or draft pick for a rent-a-player that may or may not re-sign with you in the off-season. Blazers fans only need to go back to the ill-fated Arron Afflalo trade of 2015 to see the potential ramifications of this sort of trade. Fast forward four years later, and while Portland has nothing to show from that deal outside of 25 games of Afflalo and a first round playoff exit to the Grizzlies, the Nuggets are still reaping the benefits—Will Barton and Malik Beasley (selected with the pick Portland sent to Denver in the deal) are key contributors on an excellent Nuggets team.

That being said, I’m not advocating to simply stand pat at the deadline. If the right deal presents itself—even one involving the likes of CJ McCollum or Anfernee Simons—the team should go for it, so long as it keeps them in a solid position going forward. The Blazers, when playing at their best, are probably capable of going as far as the Western Conference Finals with the current group. Unfortunately, it’s hard to envision a deal that would propel them past the vaunted Warriors, for this season at least.

There’s one reason teams sacrifice their future at the deadline—the pursuit of a championship. For the Blazers, franchise player Damian Lillard is still under contract through 2020-21 season, soto go championship or bust in 2019 would be foolish—especially given the years of re-build already they’ve already put into the process.

Instead, the best blueprint seems to be to stay the course, get as far as they can this season with the players they have, and then hope the Warriors are forced to break up their “super team” this off-season—restoring competitive balance to the West. Should that happen, the Blazers would presumably be in much better shape to take their best shot at a ring. In the mean time, if the right deal comes along in the next couple of weeks, take advantage of it—but don’t force it.

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