I love this team. Every player. Their surprising emergence at the top of the Western conference to start the season should prompt the Blazers to make additional moves mid-season in order to compete for a championship THIS year.
I make this post on the premise that the best path to a championship this year will be through becoming the best overall defensive team in the NBA. In order to do that, some personnel changes will be needed before the trade deadline in February.
First, the targets. Dame already gave us his preferences over the summer in OG Anunoby, Jared Vanderbilt, and Mikal Bridges. All are defensive stalwarts who could start for the Blazers and help them push for a finals appearance. If I were to add additional players of the same mold (who are currently on underperforming teams), it would include guys like Jimmy Butler, Myles Turner, Paul George and Draymond Green.
Do we have the assets to nab one of those 7 players above? For Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Mikal Bridges the answer is probably not. It's hard to see their respective teams coughing them up to the Blazers in exchange for anything this year as they all consider themselves as competitors despite the slower-than-expected starts.
So let's focus on the remaining 4 players who could potentially be on the block AND actually help the Blazers THIS year (ranked on probability that they will be traded):
- Myles Turner - $18M expiring contract.
- Draymond Green - $25.8M contract with PO for next season at $27.5M if he opts-in (seems likely).
- Jared Vanderbilt - $4.3M contract with TO for next season at $4.3M
- OG Anunoby - $17.3M contract + 2 more years
I would focus on the last 2 guys since they were on Dame's list this summer. Could we land Jared Vanderbilt for a future 1st round pick and a young player or two (Keon Johnson, Greg Brown, etc)? If Utah ever changes its mind this season and decides it wants to make a play for Vic Wemby, Vanderbilt should be moved. He's too good to help them lose games this year.
OG seems like the toughest get, but Toronto has some glaring holes in its roster that Portland seems uniquely suited to fill. Mainly, they need a true Center. Offering Nurk up after Jan 15th (when he is eligible to be moved) would be predicated on us landing another big man in return (as we are already short on bigs) or perhaps executing the Vanderbilt trade in tandem. But Nurk would be a great target for Toronto as they appreciate international players and they sorely need a true Center (and Pascal can move to PF and Scottie Barnes can start at the 3). Would Nurk and future 1st round pick and 1 good young player (Watford or Walker) be enough to pry OG from Ujiri's hands this season? They have a problem with Scottie Barnes emergence and Siakam and Anunoby already occupying the bulk of the minutes at the 3-4. If their record continues to disappoint, I could see OG asking out for a better situation.
I think other teams will look to deal for Draymond and Myles Turner this season. I think Draymond makes too much money so a trade for his salary this year would be prohibitive as we'd have to give up multiple good players in return. Turner is interesting, I would like to see him in addition to Nurk if possible but that means we would have to trade Hart and Winslow and maybe another young player or future pick(s). Is that too much to give up for a guy who is likely to come off the bench and then leave at the end of the season? It makes sense roster-balance wise as we're stacked at the 3 but Eubanks has also played so well in this role that is probably doesn't make sense.
With all that said, here's the 2 trades we should execute on January 16th:
- Blazers trade Keon Johnson, Greg Brown III and a 2029 1st round pick to Utah for Jared Vanderbilt
- Blazers trade Jusuf Nurkic, Trendon Watford and a 2027 1st round pick to Toronto for OG Anunoby
The trades above sacrifice future 1st round picks, some young talent, and a starting center for a starting SF and versatile big man. It also still allows for additional moves if we don't expect to bring back Hart or Winslow (in which case their salaries could amount to a trade for Myles Turner or another big man).
What moves do you see us making at the deadline if we're still a top 4 seed in the West come January?