The Portland Trail Blazers have gaps in their roster. They’ll probably need to add another significant player—or at least shift the ones they have—to make it into serious championship contention anytime soon. What if we went all the way with that concept? Today Dia Miller and Dave Deckard talk over ideal additions to Portland’s fellowship of basketballers. If you could add any player to the mix right now to perfect the Blazers, who would it be?
Dave: Ok, Dia, I know you love the team and all the players in it. We all do, really. You just crank it up to 11! But even you must have a wish list, right? There have to be at least one or two players out there who make you go, “He’d be PERFECT for the Blazers!” Obviously LeBron James, Kevin Durant...anybody would take them. If you could pick anyone else who would complement this team amazingly—even if the exercise is unrealistic, to establish an archetype—who would you pick?
Dia: I got a lot of flack for saying I didn’t think Giannis Antetokounmpo would be a good fit in Portland when that rumor was floating around. It’s not that I don’t like him, I do. But to me, an ideal addition to the current team, and to Damian Lillard, would be someone who can play both on and off the ball. We are used to seeing Dame play primarily on the ball, but he has so much versatility that I’d love to see someone paired with him who can do the same thing. The guy I have in mind is a superstar in his own right, and I think this pairing may not be a popular take, but I would absolutely love to see Steph Curry and Dame play together. Now I know this is going to be met with a lot of resistance but just be open minded and think about this for a minute. Can you even imagine those two together? The versatility? The play making?
Dave: Bold move passing up the MVP. But going straight for Steph Curry afterwards is like saying, “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly eat that bowl of ice cream. Give me the cheesecake instead.” I agree Steph and Dame would make a fun, deadly pair. I suspect that would involve Lillard headed for Oakland instead of Curry headed to Portland, though.
If we’re talking pie in the sky hopes, I’m already on record with Khris Middleton as a defensively-apt, three-point-shooting, scoring small forward. I’d be all on board with the Blazers getting him by almost any means possible.
Thinking more modestly, what about a duo like Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac from Orlando? Both can defend well. Isaac can shoot a little and he’s an efficient scorer inside the arc. I like forwards for the Blazers right now. I’d prefer Middleton’s ultra-complete package, but I wouldn’t blink too hard at going for defense plus reasonable shooting.
Who else do you like? More big names are fine.
Dia: Oh Khris Middleton is a great one. I’m on board with that! I like the idea of a Gordon/Isaac duo as well. One of the things that I love about the Trail Blazers is their ability to take good talent and make It better. Any team can compete with a superstar or two, but Portland continually manages to make their way to the playoffs with players that are smaller names. I’ve definitely got some more modest picks as well, but another superstar on my wish list isn’t Lebron James (you did say he was off limits for the sake of this conversation) but he is on the Lakers. You know how painful that is for me to even admit. But I’ll swallow my distaste for the unmentionable purple and gold team if it means bringing Anthony Davis to Portland. Can you imagine Davis alongside our current roster? Oh man, I get excited just thinking about that. Lack of defense has been a huge problem for us, and while I’m a firm believer that one player alone cannot be the complete answer to our defensive problems, I sure would love to see AD try. He’s just an incredible talent and I think he would be a good fit with our guys.
Dave: Dang! Your computer keys must be made of diamond-encrusted platinum! Middleton is pretty much my dream acquisition, but you know what, if we’re dreaming AND picking players that our readers are sure to hate, give me Paul George. I know the history. I know the “P” in “Playoff P” stands for “Pathetic”. But the guy can score, defend, and shoot, all three of which would make him a way more perfect fit in Portland than he is with the Clippers. Dan Marang and I moaned about this a couple years ago, when he went to Oklahoma City.
A lot of people like Caris LeVert, figuring the Nets are going to bail on him now that they have Durant and Kyrie Irving. Up until this last season he played small forward. He excelled at shooting guard this year, though. He’s a decent, not a great, shooter, but the potential and athleticism are there.
But if we’re dreaming, let’s ask the BIG questions. If the Blazers had a chance to get Ben Simmons without losing Damian Lillard or Jusuf Nurkic, or Joel Embiid without losing Lillard, would you be interested in either?
Dia: If we keep having these conversations and I keep turning down superstars, I’m a little afraid no one is going to take me seriously. But here’s the thing; if for the sake of this article, we are keeping our current roster and just adding our dream players, we need guys who are going to play the wing. I would pass on Simmons. Embiid is an incredible talent in my opinion. He is one of those players that it’s hard for me to turn down, ever. But I just don’t know if we need him. Dame and Nurk’s chemistry is so good. Can we use both? Because I want Embiid, even if we don’t need him.
Dave: Ask me if I’d love Joel Embiid and I’ll tell you yes, without reservation. Ask me if it’d make me nervous, and I’d also say yes, for a simple reason: Jusuf Nurkic no longer makes me nervous. Not one bit. I so respect what he’s done with his game. He’s not Embiid or Nikola Jokic, but oh my gosh, I love how he fits here. I just want that defensively-apt, small forward scorer to round out this lineup. I have this feeling that Middleton or George would have a Buck Williams-like effect on the starting five: perfect skill set, good experience, completes the whole. I could do it with Trent Jr. at the two as well. But I don’t think the Blazers get the same thing trading away Nurkic for another center or, obviously, Lillard for another point guard.
Any other dreamy players you can think of? I know we’ve bounced between realistic and ridiculous, but I kind of like dreaming about cool stuff.
Dia: Truthfully, Dave, my list of players I’d like to bring to Portland is quite long. But in light of a tweet I saw recently from CJ McCollum. He compared Jimmy Butler’s relationship with teammates to Dame’s, and I am here for It. I’m a fan of Jimmy Butler and the more I think about this, the more I’d love to see him playing alongside these guys. I frequently talk about the chemistry and culture within the Trail Blazers and I think that is a big factor in the team being as successful as It has been. I think a player like Butler, who has the skill set in a position we need, but also has that same drive and work ethic and relationship with his teammates that we see in Portland, would be a really great fit.
Can I throw in one more name? It’s not as big of one, and doesn't solve all of our problems, but last season there were some talks of the Blazers trying to acquire Danilo Gallinari. I was so excited about the thought of that and I’m still pretty excited at the thought of that.
Dave: Dan Marang and I played the dreamy, what-if game with Butler, George, and the Victor Oladipo/Domantis Sabonis duo as all of them came available. To be fair, we probably also talked about a couple of ex-Sixers centers who shouldn’t have been in the mix, but honestly, I think the Blazers have to do something over the next couple seasons. People bag on the idea of “breaking up the team” but we’ve been discussing this since 2015 now and the Blazers have one bracket-friendly Western Conference Finals appearance (and subsequent squash) to show for it. They’re fun, charismatic, and loyal, but they’re not a serious threat right now. I’ve gone from 60-ish% sure they need to make a substantial move to 90+% sure at this point.
Some of the players we’ve mentioned obviously aren’t available, or even close. They’re the archetypes, outlining the shape of Portland’s need. If they can’t get the super-powered version, at least we know what they need to look for. If any of these types of players come available, I think they’ve got to go for it. How about you?
Dia: As much as I’d like to be team keep the boys together at all costs, I’d really like to see them win a championship and they aren’t going to with things as is. They’re close. So close. But just not quite there. So yes, I would say that if someone with these kinds of skills and abilities who could fill in some holes becomes available we need to jump on that. That being said, I have no idea how we do that without giving up key players that we need. Once again, I’m really glad that’s not my job.
Who would be your dream player/archetype to add to the Blazers at this point? Let us know in the comments below!