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Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, and the Portland Trail Blazers

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When Blazers fans covet a trade, they want a big one.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NBA Trade Deadline is sparking plenty of conversation among Portland Trail Blazers fans. Anthony Davis has been at the core of it, but other names are popping up too. Today’s Blazer’s Edge Mailbag contains a pot pourri of trade-related questions, lit up and served for your enjoyment.

Dave,

Ok, how about Blake Griffin for CJ and Zach Collins? Portland would finally have their first All-Star level power forward since LaMarcus Aldridge, and Detroit can team CJ with Reggie Jackson for a wicked backcourt with Zach playing beside Andre Drummond then replacing him 2 years later for a lot less money. CJ might also be able to break into the East All-Star conversation.

The trade would also move Aminu to the bench where he’d stand a better chance of being a game changer. Seth Curry could move into the starting lineup beside Dame for the remainder of the season.

Any chance Detroit would go for that? Or Portland? Probably too soon for Detroit to trade Griffin, they absolutely love him, but perhaps.

Thanks,

David

Plenty of Portland fans veto Blake Griffin trade suggestions on principle. He’s had a questionable past. He’s not likable. And those qualities come from playing with the Los Angeles Clippers, let alone the off-court stuff he’s been involved in.

I get the sneers, but Griffin would still look great playing for the Blazers. He’s not a true stretch forward, but his migration to the three-point arc has paid off well enough. He can still score inside too. I’m not in “love” love with his defense but he’s been good in Detroit. His passing game is superlative and would make him a huge asset in Portland’s system. If they could wave a magic wand and insert him into the lineup today, I’d do it in a heartbeat and without worries.

That can’t happen, of course, and manufacturing a trade takes more than wishful thinking.

If the Pistons move Griffin despite his amazing performances, it’ll be for one of three reasons:

  1. He’s 29, they’re not winning with him, and his timetable is too short for them to catch up.
  2. He’s suffered multiple injuries.
  3. His contract is huge: $32.1 million this year ascending to $39.0 million in 2021-22.

Age is not an issue for Portland. He’d fit right into their schedule.

Injuries could be a problem, depending on who they traded for him.

Injuries would really be a problem if they were paying $62 skazillion in luxury tax penalties for the privilege of playing him.

Trading away McCollum for Griffin would ameliorate the luxury tax issue, but it would make potential injuries even more scary. The Blazers don’t vault into serious contention if they lose McCollum to Detroit, either. They’d have the potential of getting better if all the players gelled quickly, but they wouldn’t be an instant powerhouse. Personally, I’d like to see them try anyway, but the front office appears more fond of McCollum and Zach Collins than I am, so I deem it unlikely.

A lineup of Damian Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, Griffith, and McCollum would be the ultimate (pipe) dream. Portland would create problems for everyone. But even if the Pistons were looking for nothing but picks and cap relief (which is unlikely), the Blazers don’t have enough of either to get it done.

The Blazers could, and should, give up future first-rounders to make that deal happen, but those picks would be projected low. All Portland’s players with enough salary heft to make a trade work have another year remaining on their deals. That’s two years less than Griffin will be paid, but if I’m Detroit, I’m waiting and seeing if I can get a better offer this summer or next year. I might also hope that Griffin gets sick of mediocrity and opts out of the final year of his contract. Either option seems more palatable than accepting Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Collins and first-rounders at the 2019 Trade Deadline.

P.S. Did we mention luxury tax? In 2020-21 Portland’s dream quartet would be making $110.7 million between them. The Blazers would vault past the tax threshold even if they filled every other position with a reasonably-experienced veteran on a minimum contract. Again, I’d take the risk in a heartbeat because I think it’d be one of their only chances at a title without a complete overhaul and rebuild. I’m not sure management or ownership would take the same angle.

If anybody can think of a sensible way to make the deal work while retaining McCollum, I’m all ears, but at this point I don’t see any chance. I also don’t see the Blazers moving McCollum and Collins for him. I’m guessing this suggestion is D.O.A.

Dave,

Does Damian Lillard’s contract prevent the Blazers from theoretically trading for Anthony Davis for the same reason that the Celtics have to wait until this summer?

Jakob

There’s a little bit of confusion about this. The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement allows designated players who pass certain mileposts (League MVP, All-NBA Team selection, or All-Star starting nods) to earn up to 30% of their team’s salary cap instead of a pre-arranged amount. (The percentage is negotiable, to a point. Some players qualify for 25%. Lillard reportedly earns 27.5%.) The rule was named after former MVP Derrick Rose. 11 NBA players have earned such contracts.

The catch is, teams can only sign one player to this kind of deal. Commonly, this has been translated as, “Teams can only have one ‘Rose Rule’ player on the roster.” That’s not the case. They’re also allowed to trade for one Rose Rule player in addition to the one they signed. They cannot sign two; they cannot trade for two. They may acquire one by signing and one via trade.

This issue reared its head when Anthony Davis became a trade magnet this week. The Boston Celtics are considered a contender in almost every significant acquisition race, but they’re not able to trade for Davis at the moment because Rose Rule recipient Kyrie Irving suits up for them. At first this was interpreted as, “Teams can’t have two Rose Rule players.” Later it was clarified that Boston traded for Irving. Having made one such move, they cannot make a second until Irving’s contract expires (or they trade him, presumably).

The Trail Blazers signed Lillard to his Rose Rule contract. They are not prohibited from trading for Davis, as the Celtics are. They just can’t sign another player to one until Lillard’s deal is up.

Dave,

Ever since the AD story broke I’ve been waiting for someone to bring up this point. Normally, as ‘the wisest sage in the land’ - it would be you, but I’m weary of waiting so.....

Since AD’s ‘peeps’ specifically stated that the reason he wants out of NOLA is to go to “a team that allows him to win consistently and compete for a championship.” And since various trade scenarios have already been floated ad nauseum. Why are we not being more specific and ONLY talking about teams that would not be left decimated by the trade itself? Wouldn’t that be counter- productive to Mr. Davis’ stated aim. In point of fact, possibly leaving him on a weaker team than the one he left? Or is something else more subtle (and insidious) at play here?

Save us Dave.

Bern

If he only wants to go to a team that allows him to win consistently and compete for a championship, why is he pining for the Lakers? Also, has he seen what playing alongside LeBron James has done to some of the league’s best big men? He’s angling for more than just victories here, but that’s gauche to say out loud, so... Yes! The Lakers are absolutely the best championship destination! Woo! Nay... WooT!

I suspect your question appeals because Portland is one of the destinations where Davis could land and succeed without gutting the team, provided the Pelicans were willing to take McCollum and some combination of non-Lillard, non-Nurkic players in return for him. But as we just established, what Davis’ representatives are saying and the direction in which they’re pointing are two different things. Where they’re pointing isn’t Portland. In fact, it’s the opposite of Portland. I could see Davis suiting up for the Sixers, Celtics, Heat, or Clippers while he bides his time waiting for L.A., but if he’s coming to Portland, I don’t see him being any happier than he was in New Orleans.

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