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The Viability of the Trail Blazers Chasing Anthony Davis

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Every team in the league would benefit from having Davis on the roster. How far should Portland go to make it reality if they get the chance?

NBA: Golden State Warriors at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 NBA Draft is a little over a week away, soon to be followed by the summer free agency period and trade season. In the midst of the chatter, one speculative move for the Portland Trail Blazers is gaining huge attention across social media. That’s also true of the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag...

Dave,

Anthony Davis for CJ and Zach is making the rumor rounds and I want to know if it is realistic and if you’d do it? One part of me says the team should stay together and the other part says AD!

Razor Trumoan

I assume the deal you’re talking about looks something like this one from Danny Marang on Twitter:

Or the slightly more complex one detailed here:

I would love it if you wrote a piece on what you thought was a realistic offer for Anthony Davis. Maybe get an Pelican writer to agree if possible. I appreciate it and looking forward to reading more good Blazer work.

I’m gonna send you my trade I thought would work out.

Charlotte would give the #12 & #36 pick to New Orleans while the Blazers give up there #25 to New Orleans as well.

Kasey

This is the low-hanging fruit of off-season conversation. It’s also academic. CJ McCollum, Zach Collins, and low-low first-round picks aren’t likely to draw enough interest from the Pelicans. Meanwhile, the Blazers have given every indication that they value both of those players. They’d be willing to part with heavily-protected picks, but they dare not include assets that could become crucial to a rebuild if Davis departs.

This is one of those situations where you know two friends who would be great together, but neither one of them is interested in the other enough to give it a go.

The issue at hand for Portland isn’t whether they could use Davis. Who couldn’t? The real question is whether the trade would make sense if Davis left in free agency following next season. Portland would have no more control over his decision than New Orleans does now. They can’t afford to roll the dice unless all of the outcomes give them something.

I’d argue that trading McCollum, Collins, and protected picks for Davis would make sense in several ways, even if he leaves.

  • The Toronto Raptors are doing well with Kawhi Leonard on a short-term rental. Titles are titles. If you can put yourself in position to take one, do it.
  • The Blazers do need an avenue to a championship in order to justify keeping the team intact. They don’t have a credible one unless they make a significant move. This one would be faster and more significant than imagined. It would also cause more disruption than is comfortable. That should be balanced against the reality that every season passing season without a clear path is another season of Damian Lillard’s prime spinning in a cruel cul-de-sac.
  • McCollum is set to earn $29.4 million in 2020-21. Collins will earn another $5.4 million. Without moves, the Blazers are realistically looking at $12-17 million in available cap space in the summer of 2020, depending on which current players they retain. That’s not enough to transform the roster. Adding another $35 million in cap space at least offers the chance.
  • The savings would allow the Blazers to keep any rookie-scale contracts they might acquire over the next two years, including their own draft picks, without adversely affecting their ability to acquire free agents.

All of this comes over and above the year the Blazers would have with Davis playing power forward, plus the off chance that Portland’s vaunted culture and probable success would convince him to stay.

For all of those reasons, I’d be on board with the deal.

As is true for many of you, one of my summer (and occasionally church) hobbies is playing board games. Modern games force you to pay attention to strategy. One of the more important is figuring out to do when your current approach is going to leave you in third place. If the game offers no outs, so be it. You congratulate the winner and move on. But if any mechanism on the board gives you a shot to pull ahead, even a 1 in 50 chance of claiming victory is better than a 100% chance of staying where you are relative to the competition by playing out the string.

Portland’s strategy in the Lillard era has paid dividends. They were the third place team in the Western Conference this year. Golden State’s Durant-less struggles in the NBA Finals highlight the distance between Portland and contention. The Raptors are giving the Warriors everything they can handle. The Blazers got swept. The Blazers have every reason to be proud of their season; they have no reason to believe that the outcome will turn out differently next year.

In this hypothetical situation, a once-in-a-lifetime player is available for a cost that the team could absorb. The single-year contract is the sticking point, but the franchise has a viable path ahead either way that decision goes. Assuming those opportunities aren’t common—and I’m struggling to think of a similar scenario outside of the old Charles Barkley unites with Clyde Drexler rumors—the Blazers would be foolish not to try.

Let us know below...would you be on board with this trade instantly, would you have reservations, or is this a no-go for you from the start? And keep those Mailbag questions coming to blazersub@gmail.com!

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