The Trail Blazers’ injury woes have captured the attention of both fans and pundits. Following the news regarding CJ McCollum (foot fracture) and Jusuf Nurkic (wrist fracture), ESPN NBA analyst Kevin Pelton detailed the free agent and trade options that Portland could turn to in the coming weeks.
After highlighting the hurdles that the Blazers must navigate, Pelton touched on Cavaliers center JaVale McGee. While admitting that McGee makes sense for Portland, Pelton explained that the cap implications attached to a potential trade with Cleveland presents a clear obstacle. Instead, Pelton suggested that the Blazers address their frontcourt depth by utilizing a two-way contract (a subject that Blazer’s Edge contributor Steve Dewald touched on earlier this week).
For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers were touted as an obvious trade partner after Nurkic’s injury because the Cavaliers’ roster is overflowing with centers following their deal for Jarrett Allen. But dealing for JaVale McGee, the likely odd man out in Cleveland making $4.2 million this season, would take Portland into the luxury tax unless the team sent back at least two players in return. That likely makes a McGee trade a non-starter for the Blazers. It’s also probably not necessary at center, where the team could add depth by filling the second two-way spot with a promising G-League prospect like Donta Hall.
Pelton then mentioned a pair of familiar faces when his focus shifted to the Blazers’ backcourt.
Realistically, Portland’s best hope of staying afloat for the next four weeks would be signing a veteran point guard for the minimum. Shabazz Napier, who started 32 games last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards, inexplicably remains unsigned and has experience in the Blazers’ system after spending two seasons in Portland as Lillard’s backup earlier in his career. Another former Blazer backup, Tim Frazier, is also available after his 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies ended last week.
During his brief stint with the Grizzlies this season, Frazier averaged 11.3 minutes per game in his three appearances. Napier, who was featured in 127 regular season games (12 starts) during his two-year run in Portland, averaged 11.6 points per game with the Wizards last year.
You can read Pelton’s full feature at ESPN+ (subscription required).