The Portland Trail Blazers are not where they’d hope to be a quarter of the way through the season. Injuries to key players have forced coach Terry Stotts to give minutes to players who might not be ready or capable of shouldering heavier responsibilities.
With Rodney Hood going down with a left Achilles tear on Friday, the team needs to decide how it wants to approach the rest of the season.
If President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey still hopes to turn the corner and get back on track, he needs to make changes to return to stay competitive in a loaded Western Conference? One potential solution: make a move to add a proven small forward that can impact the action on both ends of the floor. With that in mind, two players who might be attainable via trade are Andre Iguodala and Otto Porter Jr.
The Current Roster
On paper, Iguodala and Porter address a handful of the current holes the Blazers have to account for, especially when faced with the prolonged absence of Hood.
When at full strength the Blazers bolster a deep stable of guards and post players. But that’s not a luxury that Portland has on the wings. With Hood’s end-of-season injury, the only players capable of playing the small forward at a reasonably competitive level are Kent Bazemore and Nassir Little. Considering Bazemore’s slow start on offense and Little’s inexperience, there is a clear need for a veteran addition.
The Case for Iggy
Iguodala is a three-time NBA champion and a Finals MVP, the latter of which was earned by competently defending LeBron James during the 2015 Finals.
The 15-year veteran is 35 years old, just like Carmelo Anthony, is 6’6” and is capable of guarding both forward positions at an elite level in bursts. Over the course of his storied career, Iguodala has routinely lined up across from the league’s elite wings, which is a list that includes LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Blazers currently do not have one player who has the physical attributes and experience to guard the aforementioned forwards. With Hood injured, this job is currently left to the undersized Bazemore, Mario Hezonja, and Anthony Tolliver. The latter options have struggled to provide consistent production, resulting in sparse playing time.
Last week, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst confirmed Memphis would likely refuse to buy Iguodala out, preferring to find a trade and at least bring back a second-round pick. David Cobb of USA Today suggested Bazemore’s expiring contract as a convenient asset for the Grizzlies to consider. However, the asking price would almost certainly include a pick.
The Blazers would clearly prefer to offer a second-round pick or an under-utilized young player, however it may take a first-round selection. If Portland thought Iguodala was worth it, they could push for lottery protection on a first-round pick.
Outside of compensation, using Bazemore’s contract to add another small forward does little to address depth. Considering the Blazers clear need for defense, Olshey could value Iguodala’s size and pedigree over Bazemore.
Pushing for Porter Jr.
If the team has returned to the playoff picture by the time Jusuf Nurkic is back in rotation, assuming the big fella is back by February, Whiteside could be made available prior to the trade deadline.
Like Iguodala, Porter is a genuine 3-and-D option. The 26-year-old forward is also more expensive and he has a $28 million player option for the 2020-21 season. Considering his cap figure, Whiteside is a workable asset in this scenario.
The Chicago Bulls currently boast a 8-14 record, placing them just outside of the Eastern Conference postseason picture. If the Bulls continue to play outside the top eight, they could pivot toward developing younger and cheaper options.
The Bulls would almost certainly demand at least a protected first-round pick alongside Whiteside’s contract in a move that involved Porter. In this theoretical approach, the Blazers have already parted ways with a protected first-round pick for Iguodala. Due to the Stepien Rule (a rule that prevents teams trading first-round picks in consecutive drafts), potential negotiations would be cumbersome.
Porter Jr is currently out with a left foot injury after playing just nine games this season. He boasts career averages of 11.0 points, five rebounds, and 1.5 assists. On top of those figures, Porter boasts a career three-point percentage of 40.5 percent.
One potential setback: adding Porter would add a significant obstacle to the Blazers’ chances at cap flexibility in the summer.
If the Grizzlies and the Bulls are interested in either deal, there are two other factors that need to be considered if the Blazers are going to offer up picks.
- If the team continues to perform outside the playoff picture these two win-now moves become redundant.
- Nurkic needs to be back and playing at a relatively high level.
A Potential Contender
With Iguodala and Porter in the fold, the Blazers have the ingredients to be a tough out in the playoffs. Clearly a lot of things have to go right. Nurkic and Zach Collins would have to return to the level of play they were displaying before their respective injuries.
What do you think of the moves outlined above? Let us know in the poll and comments below.
Should the Blazers pursue one/all of the below trades?
This poll is closed
Just Bazemore and a second round pick for Iguodala
Just Whiteside and a lottery-protected first round pick for Porter Jr
An amended version of the two deals. Explain in comments.