Look, I get it. You want to be invested in the NBA Finals this year, but instead of forcing yourself to watch the Lakers take on the scrappy Miami Heat, you’ve decided to dive headfirst into the challenge of perfecting the Portland Trail Blazers. Okay, if you’re an NBA fan you probably have no problem keeping track of both, but if you’re like me, you probably are still thinking of the millions of things in theory the Blazers can do.
With what will most likely be a tightened salary cap, one of the main avenues for improvement for Portland is via trade. Because it can be difficult for one to keep track of which hypothetical moves are on the table, I decided to help out and list which players are staying firmly in Portland and which players are very much so on the block. Here’s the definitive, scientifically tested tradability rating of every player on the roster, ranked from unlikely to possible.
Fair warning: I didn’t include certain players that were on the roster this past season on this list, the main reason being that they’re free agents. These players, specifically, are ones that I feel won’t be a part of a sign-and-trade or are just likely to sign back up for another year. These players are: Carmelo Anthony, Rodney Hood, Mario Hezonja, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan. Onward.
Damian Lillard — LOL
I probably shouldn’t even dignify this with a paragraph, but the exercise requires me to do so, so I will. Damian Lillard is not going to be traded. Ever. Along with being undoubtedly the best player on this team, he is the heart and soul of the Blazers. He has made it very clear that he wants to spend the rest of his career in Portland, and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey very much would like him to stay. Therefore, he is staying. End of discussion.
CJ McCollum — Very Unlikely
CJ McCollum is, of course, everyone’s favorite Blazer to toss into the trade machine with hopes of returning something big. From a pragmatic perspective, it makes sense. He’s one of the most skilled offensive players in the league, a guard who averages 20 points per game and consistently shoots almost 40% from three every year...but he’s also a noted defensive liability who’s about to make $30 million-plus when his extension starts in the 2021-22 season. Does Portland really want to keep running it back with the same squad hoping for different results?
The answer to that is most likely yes. No matter how much The Ringer tries to do so (although Dan Devine broke tradition by NOT trying to trade McCollum), Olshey does not feel inclined to put McCollum on the trading block. Could his salary be the matching money Portland needs to bring in a big-name wing? Probably. But that doesn’t matter because Olshey doesn’t want to get rid of him, so it might be time to take his name out of the hat.
Jusuf Nurkic — Very Unlikely
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Nurkic is traded. Unless there are undoubtedly better returns — which I think is hard to find when you’re giving up someone who is arguably one of the five best centers in the league — the Bosnian Beast is staying put in Portland. After what we saw in Orlando from Nurkic, it wouldn’t be prudent to put him on the block. He averaged 17.6 points, 10.3 boards, and two blocks a game, not to mention his four assists each contest. Assuming you get that kind of production over the course of a full season, you can’t just give away Nurkic.
Hassan Whiteside — Beware the sign-and-trade
As you may know, the albatross contract of Hassan Whiteside expires at the conclusion of this season. What Portland decides to do with the big man will play a huge role in determining the success of the offseason. If I were in charge of the Blazers, I would probably just let him walk. His box score numbers are nice, but there’s more to basketball than how many blocks and rebounds you get.
My guess is that Portland will let him walk this year, assuming he wants anything more than $7 or $8 million. But there is a world where the Blazers pull off some sort of sign-and-trade deal to get something in return. Honestly, you can find quality backups and starters for all sorts of prices usually (Daniel Theis, for example, is fine and only costs $5 million), but even then I wouldn’t be shocked if Portland found someone willing to pull off a swap for the center. He’s likely to leave as a free agent, but be wary of a potential sign-and-trade.
Gary Trent Jr. — Unlikely
Gary Trent Jr. was a revelation this year. The second-year guard hit 41% of his threes all season long and was the breakout stud for Portland on both ends of the floor in Orlando. He’s dramatically improved since his rookie year, going from someone languishing on the bench to one of the most important rotation pieces for the Blazers. He provides the two things everyone loves: Outside shooting and defense. He’s not going anywhere.
Anfernee Simons — Possible
Among the sophomores in Portland, Simons was expected to be the breakout star. Instead, he struggled to find a rhythm, putting up the worst player impact plus-minus of all NBA players at -5.34. He struggled with his shot, making only 33% of his threes, and was one of the worst defensive players on the team. He’s still only 21 years old though, and there’s a chance he carves a role for himself in the NBA. But if you’re Portland, you might be better off attaching him as an asset in a bigger deal or trading him off solo in a smaller one.
Zach Collins — Possible
It was a very tough 2019-20 season for Collins. He was never really 100%, injuring his shoulder in the third game of the year and also hurting his ankle while in Orlando. In the games he did play, he didn’t exactly show anything that screamed “I’m untouchable.” Is it possible he’s just a young big taking his sweet time to develop, one that might just need a role change? Absolutely. But he’s also another player on a rookie contract that can be thrown in a trade.
Nassir Little — Unlikely, but still somewhat possible
This depends on how Olshey sees the future of the franchise. If you’re Olshey, do you willingly give away your first-round pick in last year’s draft in hopes of immediately getting better, or do you hope Little continues to develop positively? I personally think he shouldn’t be traded and even wrote about his value last week, but if a big trade is brewing, then it wouldn’t be shocking to me if Little is somehow attached.
Trevor Ariza — Possible
The Ariza decision will easily be one of the most important ones of the 2020 offseason. They can either guarantee his contract and be on the books with him for $12.8 million next year, or they could waive him and save themselves $11 million. I’ve already written that it makes the most sense to keep Ariza, but that doesn’t mean trading him is out the window. He’s 35, but is still competent defensively and shot 40% from three. The Blazers could use that, but if they can parlay that into something better, why not?
So here it is, the definitive, highly scientific guide to help you figure out who’s likely to be traded and who’s not. There’s a good chance the basketball gods will laugh at my list and inspire Olshey to do something crazy, but I feel confident saying that this is where Portland stands going into its offseason. Now that you know this, you can go on and enjoy the Finals, which will hopefully have the Lakers lose.