NBA Trade season is nearly upon us and the Trail Blazers’ uncertain path for the remainder of the year makes them a must-watch team as the action unfolds. The massive expiring contracts of Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside have fueled rumors centered around big names that could become available. Yes, I’m talking about Kevin Love.
The Blazers’ longterm salary commitments combine with rumor-inspiring contracts to make a big move appear likely. Judging by President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey’s history in Portland, a marquee trade could also transpire alongside a series of moves on the fringes.
Like a hungry raccoon sifting through post-Thanksgiving waste bins, Olshey has routinely targeted the unwanted and underutilized players that other organizations cast aside. From Maurice Harkless to Skal Labissière, the Blazers have successfully turned afterthoughts into contributors under the current regime. If Portland does make a significant draft asset available in a blockbuster trade, it will be imperative that the Blazers continue to find ways to cultivate talent on controlled contracts.
With that in mind, here are three potential targets that could benefit from a long audition in Portland.
D.J. Wilson | PF | Bucks
HT: 6’10” | WT: 231 | Age: 23 | Minutes Per Game: 11.5
D.J. Wilson, an athletic power forward selected at pick No. 17 in the 2017 NBA Draft, has graced the Bucks’ starting lineup on just three occasions. Stuck behind veteran sharp-shooting forward Ersan Ilyasova, Wilson has failed to earn a consistent spot in coach Mike Budenholzer’s rotation.
Despite a lack of playing time, there is still a lot to like about Wilson’s potential upside, especially in the Blazers’ development system. Armed with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and quickness, Wilson has all the tools to do Aminu-like things on the defensive end. He was projected to blossom into a player that could put the ball on the floor coming out of Michigan, but those skills still need to be refined at the NBA level. From a shooting standpoint, Wilson must improve his consistency, a part of his game that has prevented him from playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.
When Wilson does get an opportunity to play, he has shown signs of his versatility. Earlier this month, the 23-year-old forward took advantage of extra minutes against the Knicks.
There are no indications that Wilson is available, but his lack of usage and the Bucks’ potential desire to be active in the buyout market later this season might indicate otherwise.
Justin Jackson | SF/PF | Mavericks
HT: 6’8” | WT: 210 | Age: 24 | Minutes Per Game: 14.4
Justin Jackson, who had his named called by the Blazers in the 2017 NBA Draft, has made two stops during his career. Last year, Jackson was traded from the Kings to the Mavs in a midseason deal. The former North Carolina standout is far from an exciting addition, but his size and shooting skills form a sturdy floor for a player at a position of need.
Through 23 games this season, Jackson is shooting a career-best 38.3 percent from beyond the arc. According to Cleaning the Glass, he has attempted just 12 corner three-pointers, making his statistical increase even more noteworthy.
If the Mavs go hunting for a star to put alongside Luka Doncic, Jackson could become available. His modest profile could fit the mold of a player that piques Olshey’s interest.
Torrey Craig | G/F | Nuggets
HT: 6’6” | WT: 215 | Age: 28 | Minutes Per Game: 13.4
Unlike the first two players on this list, Torrey Craig carved out a niche in the NBA after going undrafted out of college. Known for his defense, Craig often draws the task of guarding Damian Lillard when the Nuggets cross paths with the Blazers. Rangy and explosive, Craig’s athleticism translates to his ability to generate points at the cup. According to Cleaning the Glass, Craig is currently in the 88 percentile at his position for finishing at the rim.
The Nuggets have a crowded wing rotation and burgeoning talent Michael Porter Jr. appears ready to undertake a larger role, which could leave Craig on the outside looking in. If Denver hopes to pick up a minor asset prior to Craig’s free agency in the summer of 2020, Olshey could come calling. Craig is set to make two million dollars this season, making him an interesting player to consider if the Blazers are granted a disabled player exception for Rodney Hood.