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B/R Predicts Blazers Lose Melo and Whiteside, Keep Ariza

Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report offers his free-agency predictions.

Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

With the 2019-20 NBA season suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear how (or when) the Portland Trail Blazers’ season will officially end. Offseasons activities like the draft and free agency are on hold until the NBA makes a decision on the fate of this season. At some point the offseason will begin, so Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report offered his free-agency predictions for every team.

Buckley sees Carmelo Anthony heading back to the New York Knicks for a reunion given the veteran’s close relationship with now-president of basketball operations, Leon Rose:

“It’s hard to say because I don’t know what that situation is going to be,” Anthony told Newsday’s Al Iannazzone. “The easiest thing to say is, ‘His agent is there, he’s coming back.’ Until I sit down and see the whole plan, I don’t know.”

Shortly after the Anthony report, there were rumblings from ESPN’s Frank Isola about New York eyeing a trade for Chris Paul, another of Rose’s former clients.

In regards to the Blazers, Buckley envisions the team moving on from its “temporary” center replacement in Hassan Whiteside and guaranteeing Trevor Ariza’s $12.8 million salary next year:

Whiteside wasn’t perfect, but he did exactly what the Blazers needed. That shouldn’t change the temporary nature of the relationship. When Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are healthy, there’s no need for Whiteside. Even on a discounted deal, he’d clutter the frontcourt rotation and perhaps slow the development of younger, higher-upside players.

While we have already signaled where we think Carmelo Anthony is headed (back to NYC, if you missed it), our crystal ball does have the Blazers guaranteeing Trevor Ariza’s $12.8 million salary.

Ariza’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he is not waived by June 30, 2020, according to HoopsHype. In 21 games with the Blazers, he averaged 11 points with 40% shooting from deep in 33.4 minutes per game.

Anthony enjoyed a career revival with the Blazers after being out of basketball for over a year. He recently said that he was at “rock bottom” before the Blazers offered him a role. During the season, Anthony’s appreciation for the opportunity in Portland was clear. He stated in January that “this is where I want to retire.” Melo averaged 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 50 games with Portland.

Hassan Whiteside had his own resurgence in Portland after being shipped out by the Miami Heat. He posted a career-best 14.2 rebounds per game this season, in addition to 16.3 points and 3.1 blocks per game. As Dave Deckard here at Blazer’s Edge wrote in March, trying to keep Whiteside is the only option that makes sense for the Blazers:

Again: dumping Whiteside and keeping Ariza means losing Whiteside for nothing. Dumping them both for a free agent and actually getting better by doing so is not impossible, but it’s a stretch. Thus the most likely outcome is the Blazers keeping both Whiteside and Ariza. This is especially true if you believe President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey’s claim that the Blazers didn’t even consider potential Whiteside trades at the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline last month.

Will the Blazers retain Anthony, Whiteside and Ariza? Will Anthony and Whiteside want to return to Portland? Let us know what you think in the comments.