With the amount of injuries suffered, the Portland Trail Blazers still had a successful season, able to solidify the eighth seed in a tough Western Conference battle. Going into next season, the Blazers should definitely be contenders with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Trevor Ariza, Rodney Hood, Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Trent Jr., and Carmelo Anthony (assuming he is resigned). One piece is missing though: a backup point guard.
Anfernee Simons is a solid young player with potential, but he is inconsistent and does not seem ready to contribute to a title contender, currently. During the regular season, he posted averages of 8.3 points and 1.4 assists, shooting a subpar 39.9% overall and 33.2% from three. Obtaining a veteran backup point guard is a must for Portland whether it’s from the free agent market or via trade.
Derrick Rose has only one year left on his contract with the Detroit Pistons ($7,682,927). He would be a tremendous fit with the Blazers’ bench mob. He was in the running the sixth man of the year award this past season after averaging 18.1 points and 5.6 assists on 49% shooting overall. Although he did not shoot well from three last season (30.6% and 30.4% for career), he has always been a great finisher and shooter in the midrange. Last season, he shot a career-high 53.5% from two. You still have a legit starting point guard in this league to give intense bench production. In order to make this come to fruition, I have listed a possible trade of Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, and Nassir Little for Derrick Rose. I would then take the gamble of signing a free agent front-court player such as Aron Baynes or a reunion with Maurice Harkless. This would definitely boost the bench production.
D.J. Augustin Is a free agent this off-season. He has always been a solid point guard with a great ability to shoot the ball and create plays for his teammates. In the 2020 NBA Playoffs, he averaged 13.2 points and 6 assists on 47.1% shooting from three in only 25.6 minutes off the bench for the Orlando Magic. With his abilities to put the ball in the hoop and create for others, he would relieve pressure off Lillard and McCollum with not having extended minutes. Augustin would also fit great alongside Trent Jr., who has turned into a stout defender and three-point shooter, to help mask Augustin’s defensive struggles.
Isaiah Thomas has been a free agent since February of this season. He was definitely going to have Boston ‘bring out the Brink’s truck’ until a groin injury put that to a halt. He’s turned into a journeyman having been on five teams since the 2016-2017 season. After playing 40 games for the Wizards, he was traded to the Clippers and eventually waived. While with the Wizards, he shot a stellar 41.3% from three; a career-high. In just 23.1 minutes per game, Thomas averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists and still has game to provide a boost off the bench. Let’s not forget, he was just an MVP candidate in 2017 after averaging 28.9 points per game with the Celtics. Thomas has always had a knack for scoring whether it’s on drives or his shooting ability.
The Unlikely ‘What if’s’
We can all dream a bit, can’t we?
Goran Dragić is slated to be a free agent this off-season, but this is a long shot. Dragić played 59 of 62 regular season games as a reserve, but has started all 12 games of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Still, he would be such an amazing fit with the Trail Blazers. At 34 years old, the crafty southpaw still has an impressive arsenal of offensive moves. With the Heat, he played 59 of 62 games as a reserve. He averaged 16.2 points and 5.1 assists, converting on three-pointers and two-pointers at 36.7% and 50.5%, respectively. There would be an immense amount of comfort with him on the floor when Lillard and McCollum rest since he is a legitimate starting point guard. This one may only be a dream as he will probably try to cash in on what would be his last big contract of his career, but who knows.
After partaking in a Clippers’ 4-3 series loss after being up 3-1, the Clippers are seeking a play-making point guard. This could potentially have Patrick Beverley on the move. This would actually be pretty hilarious creating a thunderous ‘LOL’ based off Beverley’s history with Lillard if they were now teammates. Both players though, are mature enough to put that aside and work together diligently for a championship.
Despite their beef over the past several seasons, Beverley would be of significant assistance to the Blazers’ defensive woes. He also contributed offensively with 7.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.6 assists with shooting a stellar 38.8% from deep this season. He’s reliable and pairing him with Gary Trent Jr. would create nightmares for opposing benches. Maybe Neil Olshey could channel a trade for Patrick Beverley from his former organization. I mean come on...as a Blazers’ fan, wouldn’t it be great to hear Beverley hollering ‘Cancun on three!’ to opposing teams while sporting a Blazers’ jersey? Why not.
Complete versatility is an extremely rare attribute in players. There is a term in baseball called a ‘five-tool player’ where he is above average in just about every category.
Marcus Smart is that guy. He can defend, score, pass, rebound, and shoot (sigh..finally — 35.1% from three). This season, he put up 12.9 points, 4.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game. He would impose a strong will against opposing teams off the bench paired with Trent Jr. as they are both DOGS. They both do many things that don’t show up on the box score and provide toughness and grit to set a tone night in, night out. With Smart and Jaylen Brown reportedly having to be separated in the locker room after a Game 2 loss to the Heat and potentially being short of the NBA Finals again, maybe Smart would seek a trade for a change of scenery. Portland could be just it.
A deep rotation is essential to a championship team. Reserve point guard is one hole Olshey must fill to not have his star duo of Lillard and McCollum burn out due to extended minutes from the regular season heading into the playoffs. There were already questions about the Blazers’ reserves and Trent Jr made his mark. Portland found its backup shooting guard of the future in him and he proved it in the bubble shooting a tremendous 50.7% from beyond the arc through 9 games. Having a running mate to spark up the bench would work wonders for the Blazers. All of these options listed above are veterans with playoff experience and special talents useful to them to provide a nice spark off the bench. With the addition of one of these guards, the production of the Trail Blazers’ bench would see a significant increase. Hopefully, Olshey has a few tricks up his sleeve if he intends on pursuing an adjustment to the depth chart.