The NBA Trade Deadline is upon us and the Portland Trail Blazers have been loosely connected to multiple players, including Aaron Gordon, Norman Powell, and even Victor Oladipo. Noon, Pacific on Thursday will bring an end to speculation. Between now and then, Dave Deckard and Dia Miller have you covered with this back-and-forth, plus the upcoming Dave and Dia podcast, dropping tomorrow morning.
What can, or should, the Blazers do at the trade deadline? Which players seem most promising and what price should Portland pay to get them?
Dia: I absolutely think the Blazers should be targeting Aaron Gordon right now. I think we are a good team. I think we are a team that maybe has a shot at winning a championship. I think we are definitely a team that is a move or two away from being real contenders to win a ring. Our biggest issue has been defense, and I mentioned on our podcast last week that I’m happy with where the Trail Blazers offense is. We have one of the best offenses in the NBA and that’s not something I think we need to make trades to improve. So if we are making moves, it should be to improve our defense. I don’t think Aaron Gordon solves all of our issues, but I think he is an improvement on defense.
Dave: He’s also under contract for another season, which helps. He’s a WAY better get than LaMarcus Aldridge. When healthy, he’s a great defender. He attempts more three-pointers and hits them at a higher rate than Aldridge as well. He can make plays similar to Derrick Jones, Jr. (though not with the same height and flair anymore). There’s nothing wrong with getting Gordon, especially if the price is players the Blazers can’t keep long-term anyway. As we’ve said over and over again, if CJ McCollum stays, Gary Trent, Jr. is going one way or the other. Jones, Jr. is rumored to be the other player under discussion. Gordon replaces a little of his style, and the Blazers may not be planning to pay him long-term either. The sticking point is going to be the draft pick. Portland already doesn’t have one in 2021. They gave it up in the Robert Covington deal. If they deal another one, plus Jones and Trent, that’s four young players outgoing for Gordon. The Blazers do need to keep a reasonable future afloat if they don’t believe Gordon brings them a title. Robbing too much from tomorrow is a bad idea, especially when we’re talking draft picks 3-4 years down the road when Portland’s current players will be well past their prime.
It may be a moot point, though. Boston looks ready to outbid Portland, and may have done so before this publishes.
Give me your gut feeling, basketball-wise. We know you love all Blazers players forever and never want to see anyone traded, but how disappointed will you be if Portland doesn’t make a move this week and why?
Dia: Honestly, I would be a little bit bummed. I think we aren’t far from being really serious contenders. Do I think we can win as we are now? Yes. Do I think it’s a long shot? Absolutely. If we can make a mid-season move here that will help defensively, it’s going to be huge for us. I’d be bummed if that doesn’t happen. That being said, there aren’t a lot of options that I think would be smart for Portland that haven’t already been moved. That’s part of why I’m so into the idea of Gordon. I don’t think he’s the perfect fit or the answer to everything, but of what’s available and attainable, I think he’s the best option—-and I think we need to do something.
Dave: We talked about this on the last podcast. It hurts when your mid-range salaries are either critical to the team (and thus can’t be traded) or not that valuable (and thus can’t be traded). The bar for Trading Jusuf Nurkic is high. If the Blazers trade Robert Covington, it’s hard to see it as much better than a lateral move defensively, which is where they need help. Lately he’s become the 3-and-D forward they’re looking for. Rodney Hood has been injured and isn’t worth that much more than his expiring contract right now.
Derrick Jones, Jr. at $9.3 million is a notable exception. He provides Portland wiggle room. After that it’s Zach Collins and Enes Kanter at a little over $5 million each, and a bunch of young players with cheap contracts. You can’t trade 4-for-1 mid-season very easily. They’ve got to find the right players to match the right salaries while not going sideways on the deal. That’s really hard. I’m guessing that, plus the lack of overall value in those middle contracts, will conspire against a move. I hope they get one done anyway, but it’s hard to avoid the impression that the Blazers are offering leftovers in exchange for a restaurant meal.
I mean, we could get crazy here. I’d actually consider a CJ McCollum for Gordon and Nikola Vucevic package, with the Blazers throwing in Jones, Jr. and a pick. That’s one of the few permutations that I can see in which McCollum could get moved. I’m still not convinced that keeping him long-term is better than keeping Trent, Jr. and Anfernee Simons for this team, where they are right now. McCollum is clearly a superior player, but that kind of move would revolutionize the frontcourt and give Portland another trading chip later in Nurkic, should he stay healthy. Orlando could stand to consolidate some salaries into a really good player. They’re also rumored to be looking for Vucevic and Gordon deals (and Evan Fournier, and just about everyone else). I could see an outside chance of it working.
Dia: I do not like that move at all. I think trading CJ is a bad move for a lot of reasons, the biggest of which is that I don’t necessarily think we can keep Gary Trent Jr. So if we trade away CJ and then lose Gary also, we are going to be in a little bit of a pickle. I don’t think at this point with a mid season trade we should be looking at trading our starting line up. If we can get something done outside of that then I’m game. But it’s really not looking like there are a lot of options. In my opinion trading CJ, Derrick and a pick would not be in our best interest and frankly that move would disappoint me more than no move at all.
Dave: If anything, I don’t think Orlando does it. But I’ll give you a name that Dan Marang put in my ear and I like: Kyle Anderson in Memphis. The Grizzlies are in no-man’s land, but they’re plenty close to ascending. When they do, they should have years and years ahead of them. At 27, Anderson is one of their older players but he’s right on Portland’s timeline. He’s a swing forward, an efficient scorer who just discovered his three-point stroke. He’s also a good defender.
Anderson makes $9.5 million. I’m not sure it’d make sense to trade for him singly, using a similar contract. I don’t think the Grizzlies would salary dump him away and trading Jones, Jr. for him doesn’t feel right. But a young player and a contract might work. This might be a Trent, Jr. and Collins situation, presuming the Blazers don’t have good vibes about Collins anymore.
It feels like that’s the kind of move the Blazers should try to make. They have expiring contracts and young players that can’t all play for them, especially if they’re planning on keeping CJ. One young player and one player who won’t be here next year is not a great price to put another veteran forward on the team.
Dia: I actually think I like that move. I think we have Collins, Hood, and Trent Jr. to work with. At least, that’s where my line is at this mid season trade deadline. The truth is, I’m not ready to let go of Jones Jr. yet. I don’t think we should do much more than that, and the only reason I’m okay with Trent Jr. is because of what we have talked about over and over (expiring contract, looking for a big pay day, probably not staying in Portland long term). I think Anderson would be helpful on defense and that’s primarily what we need—someone to improve our defense without sacrificing our offense. There are really so few moves that fit this bill and some of them have already gone to other teams. I have hope that Portland can still pull something off, but as that deadline gets closer and closer, it makes me more and more skeptical that they can pull it off.
Dave: Plenty of considerations are in play.
- The life stage of the roster
- Can they get better in a way that makes a difference?
- Can they retain their current players?
- Roster balance
- Need for defense
- Reliance on shooting
- Not taking the ball away from Damian Lillard but giving him enough support
- Injury status of current players
- Matching contracts
- Staying under the luxury tax threshold
- Future assets and flexibility
Making accurate guesses about the variables on that list is the first step. Presumably the front office has the best information available. After that, it’s a matter of prioritizing. The Blazers can’t have everything. No move is going to satisfy all criteria on this list. Which items are the most important, or even addressable, in a mid-season trade? Their answer to that will inform whatever they attempt (or don’t). Then they have to find a willing partner...
We could mention more prospects. I wouldn’t mind JaVale McGee or some kind of mega-package for Domantas Sabonis. We haven’t touched on Oladipo, who doesn’t make much sense unless he’s stating and other changes are coming in the backcourt. I’d say the same thing about Norman Powell. If the Blazers are hunting those two, something must be stirring. I’d still take DeMarcus Cousins, or even Dāvis Bertāns of the Washington Wizards. Would the Raptors part with Chris Boucher?
But enough of us. What about all of you? Do you expect the Blazers to make a major move, a minor move, or no move at all at the deadline? What would your preference be and what are your best ideas? Have at it below as we all wait for the answers by Thursday, noon Pacific.