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Love & Hate: The Blazers’ Rumored Pursuit of Aaron Gordon

A look at the potential positives and pitfalls of the Trail Blazers’ pursuit of Magic forward Aaron Gordon.

Orlando Magic v Toronto Raptors Photo by Scott Audette/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA Trade Deadline is less than a week away and the Trail Blazers are rumored to have interest in Magic forward Aaron Gordon. This is nothing new for the Blazers. According to a report prior to the 2020-21 season, Portland approached Orlando in the offseason before executing a trade for Robert Covington.

Even with the fruitless negotiations of the past in mind, this current pursuit feels like it carries significantly more weight. From Damian Lillard’s clear prime-age production to an obvious need for frontcourt scoring, it certainly appears that the Blazers could be on the verge of finally landing Gordon.

Instead of a traditional breakdown of a potential Gordon-centric trade, I am going to call upon my most-recent Instagram obsession: Samir, host of Celebrity Home Shopping. Something about the strategic delivery of Samir’s observations gets me every time. For reference, here is a taste of one of his recent videos:

Ok, sorry, let’s get back to the trade deadline.

What I Love About A Hypothetical Aaron Gordon Trade

Three Level Scoring: Outside of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers lack a third consistent and versatile scoring threat (Melo and Gary Trent Jr. come close). Gordon would alleviate pressure in multiple lineups and situations. He is a clear threat in the open court and the former Wildcats forward has blossomed into a steady operator in half-court sets.

Seriously, look at his 38-point night against the Nets. Gordon was rolling early in possessions, at the rim and from beyond the arc.

Size-to-Athleticism Ratio: My eyes are still bleeding from the Blazers-Lakers postseason matchup in the bubble. Due to injuries and absences, Portland lacked a true small forward when they tussled with Los Angeles in the opening round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. The Blazers made an effort to address this issue by adding Derrick Jones Jr. and Covington in the offseason, but it still feels like coach Terry Stotts’ squad is one forward short. Gordon, armed with an explosive 235-pound frame, would answer that call and his skill set could raise the ceiling on Portland’s overall trajectory.

Adding Gordon would give the Blazers’ frontcourt rotation an edge against opening-round opponents and the claws necessary to stick with elite teams if a deep postseason run unfolds.

Gimme That Contract: Gordon is under contract through the 2021-22 season on a deal that is set to decline from $18.1 million this year to $16.4 million next year. That structure would not only reduce the Blazers’ burgeoning tax bill next season, but the duration of his current contract fits Portland’s current window. Jusuf Nurkic and Covington are both set to come off the books after the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. Even with Gordon in the short-term books, the Blazers could put together one last hail marry to add an alternate third piece to the Lillard-McCollum mix in the 2022 offseason.

What I Hate* About A Hypothetical Aaron Gordon Trade

*I don’t “hate” anything about basketball trades, players or rumors. I absolutely love this game and this time of year.

Banking on a Hot Streak: Gordon has never shot above 35 percent from beyond the arc for a full season. He came close in the 2018-19 campaign, but he fell just short by converting 34.9 percent of his triples that year. This season, in just 22 appearances, Gordon is shooting a career-best 41.1 percent from distance.

It is tough to tell if Gordon’s new-found accuracy is here to stay. On the flip side of the coin, Gordon’s 41.1 percent mark on his Basketball-Reference page could simply be this:

Woof. That Asking Price: According to HoopsHype contributor Michael Scotto, the Magic are asking for a first-round pick and a good young player. I realize that it is a seller’s market, but that still feels steep. The Magic have made investments at the same position that Gordon plays, are on the outer rim of competitiveness and only control Gordon’s destiny for another full season. That rumored asking price, if accurate, feels like a car dealership trying to move a Ford Pinto that is missing its rear bumper for an above-book price.

The Blazers would have to clear several hurdles to reach that demand from the Magic. Trent might be the only player that meets Orlando’s “good young player” criteria. In order to include a first-round pick, the Rockets would have to do the Blazers a favor in regards to pick protections or the Magic would have to be patient. Additionally, Neil Olshey would have to piece together veteran salaries in order to make a tax-friendly exchange work. Finally, the Blazers would have to hit on all three of those items without sacrificing the foundation that a ceiling-raising move must launch from.

Show Me the Playoff Experience: Five games and 164 minutes. That is Gordon’s postseason resume. If the Blazers pull the trigger on another noteworthy trade for frontcourt help, they will have pushed their chips into the center of the table for a player that doesn’t possess a plethora of big-game experience.

In theory, between Covington and Gordon, the Blazers could enter the playoffs with a frontcourt assembled from three first-round picks and a solid young player (that isn’t counting the veteran players needed to make the salaries work).

For context: the Clippers landed All-NBA wing Paul George for five first-round picks and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plus pick swaps). The Nets jettisoned three first-round picks, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert for MVP-level guard James Harden (pick swaps not included). The Clippers and Nets put together significant packages in both of those trades, but they received bonafide stars in return. Yes. The Blazers’ hypothetical hybrid package is slightly less, but the return is also considerably smaller.

No matter what happens, the Blazers’ Gordon-based rumors have given fans in Rip City plenty to think about as March 25 approaches. Now it is your turn to chime in, tell us your hopes and concerns for the trade deadline in the comments below.