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Assessing the Trade Value of Trail Blazers Players

The Blazers are not flush with appealing trade chips.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline is only (checks calendar) NINE DAYS AWAY. Rumors already swirl around Anthony Davis and more are sure to follow as Feb. 7 approaches. Let’s take a moment to consider the tradeability of all the Portland Trail Blazers players.

I’m not the most creative, so I’ve broken trade value down into three overly-broad but useful categories: negative value, neutral value, positive value.

Negative value means general manager Neil Olshey and the Blazers would have to attach a draft pick or take back a similarly bad contract to get rid of a player. Neutral value suggests the player would be useful as salary filler or a random lottery ticket in a larger trade but teams generally wouldn’t be interesting in acquiring him on his own merit/salary. Positive value means other teams would send the Blazers valuable players or draft picks to acquire that player.

Negative Value Players

Evan Turner: This one hurts. Turner seems like one of the two most likeable players on the team and he’s been valuable as a bench player this season. And he’s my favorite passer on the roster since Andre Miller left town. The reality, however, is that his contract is still a millstone and if the Blazers want to include him in a larger trade they will likely need to include a draft pick as enticement.

Meyers Leonard: Sigh. Leonard is the other guy I’d give the “most likeable” award to, and there’s a perception that he’s significantly improved this year, but nobody is lining up to pay Leonard $10+ million next season. Like Turner, he will only be included in a larger trade if a draft pick is thrown in to offset the salary obligation.

Caleb Swanigan: Swanigan’s salary is guaranteed next season.

Neutral Value Players

Maurice Harkless: Harkless’ value is tough to infer. It’s possible he’s seen as no more valuable than Turner or Leonard, but the fact that his contract has only a single season left after this year and he’s proven to be a solid rotation player when engaged makes me suspect he could be used to help fill-in salary obligations in a larger trade.

Zach Collins: Collins is only 21 years old but has had a second consecutive rough season. Blazers fans still like to talk about his upside but it’s unclear if opposing teams would be excited about him. He could likely serve as a throw-in to another deal but he wouldn’t move the needle enough to bring in an established player on his own.

Gary Trent and Anfernee Simons: Nearly every team in the NBA passed on these two just seven months ago and they haven’t played enough to merit reconsideration.

Seth Curry and Jake Layman: Similarly, Curry and Layman were free agents recently and did not seem to receive much interest from other teams. Curry’s contract structure would also make it difficult to re-sign him without sacrificing some flexibility, limiting his value if he does have a stellar second half of the season. Nobody would shoot down a trade over these players, but no GM is calling and asking about them either.

Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin: Minimum salary trade filler.

Positive Value Players

Al-Farouq Aminu: Aminu’s low contract — $6.95 million this season — and pending free agency would make him valuable to a potential contender. He’s not going to headline a trade for a bona fide starting caliber player, but he would improve the quality of a larger package of players and picks.

CJ McCollum: McCollum’s weaknesses have been well-discussed this season. Perhaps most damning is that he hasn’t really improved since signing his de facto max contract in 2016. He’s likely paid too much to be of interest as a third semi-star on a contender so a probable landing spot might be a non-contender who’s looking to continue selling tickets while also chasing lottery balls. The problem is that such a team may not be willing to give up high-upside prospects to snag McCollum.

CJ certainly has positive value around the league, but the incongruity with his salary and skill level makes me think any trade package centered on McCollum would underwhelm Olshey and the Blazers, so the most likely outcome is that he will remain untraded.

Jusuf Nurkic: The one interesting wrinkle in McCollum’s value is Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic is only making $11 million and playing very well the year AFTER signing a major deal. In contrast to CJ, his trade value is presumably sky high right now. Packaging the two mitigates McCollum’s salary and may be enough to pry away an all-star from a team looking to make a move.

Damian Lillard: The Blazers aren’t trading him unless he asks for a trade.

Bottom Line

The Blazers have several serviceable players on the roster but only Aminu, McCollum, Nurkic, and Lillard are likely to have positive trade value. The dissonance between McCollum’s skill level and his contract limit the ability to use CJ to net an all-star in return, but a Nurkic and McCollum combination might be appealing to opposing teams.

Either way, if Portland does decide to make a trade, their lacking of appealing trade chips outside of McLillard/Nurkic suggests they will be better served to seek out a player who has underperformed as a poor fit on an opposing team and has potential for a change of scenery bump in Portland.