If the 2020 NBA Playoffs started today, the Portland Trail Blazers would make the Western Conference bracket, but just barely. Coming into the season with high expectations after a triumphant run to the Western Conference Finals last year, the Blazers have disappointed, sitting at 14-18 and 8th in the conference. However, they’re much closer to 13th (just two games ahead) than they are 6th (5.5 behind) and one bad stretch could cast them out of the postseason entirely. Injuries to key players have crippled the Blazers, but if they could just hold on until the cavalry returns, Portland could possibly make another run in the postseason.
Here are a few trade candidates who the Blazers might be able to acquire at the deadline to keep them afloat until Jusuf Nurkic returns (and maybe Zach Collins someday). In deference to Nurk and Zach, I avoided trades for true big men. I also avoided the usual star power forwards in favor of something different.
Glenn Robinson III/Alec Burks
Glenn Robinson III and Alec Burks are both wings on the Warriors who will presumably be available at the deadline. The Warriors have been damaged by injuries even more than the Blazers have, and are not going to make the playoffs this season barring a miracle. They’ll therefore be trying to trade off veterans that aren’t essential to their longterm plans, and both Robinson III and Burks fit the bill. Robinson is a 3 and D wing with size who’s shooting just over 40% from three this season (albeit on just 3.3 attempts per game) and seems to be recovered from his severe leg injury two seasons ago. Burks is more of a scoring guard, and while his defense leaves something to be desired, he’s scoring over 15 points per game on solid efficiency and with decent rebound and assist numbers. Either would be of use to the Blazers in a 20-25 minute per game role off the bench, and shouldn’t require more than a second round pick or two.
While Moore is on the smaller side, he could fill the role that Seth Curry established last year as a scoring guard off the bench who can help space the floor for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum (Moore is a career 39.3% three-point shooter). Moore has drifted in and out of the Pelicans’ rotation this season and could be on the move as the Pelicans tear down their roster. Moore’s contract is too big for the Blazers to take on with any of their more replaceable pieces, but he could be sent their way as part of a three-team deal or larger trade. Moore, like Burks and Robinson, is an expiring contract, so while he’d help the Blazers this season, he could also be a candidate to re-sign this summer as well.
Jae Crowder has fallen quite far in the past few years, going from a seemingly key element to a rising Celtics squad to a potential buyout candidate on the lottery-bound Grizzlies. Crowder’s excellent shooting from the 2017 season appears to be an outlier in his career as well, and he’s struggling worse than ever with his shot this year. However, he still adds size, toughness, and defense to a Blazers team that could use all of those things on the wing, and his shooting might perk up playing off Lillard and McCollum. Crowder’s contract is not large, but with the Blazers’ dearth of medium-sized deals, he too would likely have to arrive via a three-team deal. Still, his value is not high, and the Blazers would probably not have to give up much to get him; a low risk for a potentially nice reward.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are actually a couple games ahead of the Blazers in the standings, so it remains to be seen whether they will actually trade away their veterans. If they do, Danilo Gallinari will serve as one of the biggest (if not the biggest) pieces in play at the deadline. The Italian Stallion is putting in yeoman’s work for the Thunder, scoring 18 points per game on a true shooting north of 60% while playing solid defense and providing some playmaking. Gallinari won’t come cheap (some team will likely offer a 1st round pick or a legitimate prospect for him) but he’s a near All Star level player who fits in perfectly with what the Blazers need. Gallo’s shooting, shot creation, and defense are ideal complements to the Blazers’ roster, and he’d provide a nice kick on both ends of the floor.
Nah, I’m just kidding. Besides, I’m pretty sure he can’t be traded back to the Blazers yet anyway.
Boy do the Knicks stink. Reggie Bullock has yet to play for the Knicks this season (he’s recovering from a neck injury), but his lights-out shooting ability and competent defense makes him a valuable piece on any team. While the Knicks could use his services, they’re not going anywhere, and a team like the Blazers would benefit greatly from Bullock’s shooting and ability to run around picks to generate open shots. He’s on a cheap deal and could be acquired for a couple of the Blazers’ cheaper contracts – why not send Mario Hezonja back to Madison Square Garden!? Like most of these players, Bullock is not a game-changer, but he’d be a nice addition to a Blazers team that needs help right now.
Well, do any of these names sound good? Any others that might work better?