Deep in the throes of holiday season, this time of year also pilots us into NBA trade season, and the Portland Trail Blazers have options with just under two months before the deadline arrives.
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report highlighted several impact players around the league who could be on the move before Feb. 9. Among the thicket of names included several bigs, most notably Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba and San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl.
Some are obvious if you look at the bottom of the standings. Among the league’s worst teams, league sources believe the Detroit Pistons may be open to trading shooter Bojan Bogdanović, the Orlando Magic are expected to shop Gary Harris, Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba, and the San Antonio Spurs (Jakob Poeltl, Josh Richardson and Doug McDermott) and the Houston Rockets (Eric Gordon) may part with veterans.
The market will determine prices, but the names shouldn’t be a surprise.
Portland is stacked at the guard and forward positions. However, the center slot is rather thin with only two 5-men on the roster. Jusuf Nurkic has been injury-plagued for years, only playing 70 or more games twice in his now nine-year career. In the event of being sidelined once more, Eubanks at 6’10 will be on an island to fend off bigs in a talented western conference.
Bamba was connected to Portland in free agency possibilities this summer, at least by the media. The 7-footer came into his own in the 2021-22 NBA campaign, posting 10.6 points per game, to go along with 8.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks on 48 percent shooting from the floor, 38 percent shooting from 3 (on four attempts per game) and 78 percent from the foul line. His 38 percent clip from 3-point range trailed only Karl-Anthony Towns for the best percentage among all centers who made at least one 3-pointer per game last season. His blocks per game ranked T-5th.
He has seen a reduction in his role this year, falling out of the starting lineup in favor of Bol Bol, yet his per 36 numbers for this season exceed that of last season in several key categories. His shot-blocking chops, ability to put the ball on the floor and spacing would provide Portland with depth at the position and a unique tertiary skillset.
San Antonio is a prime candidate to land prized center Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA Draft, leaving Poeltl as an odd man out. He has been a fringe double-double producer for the last two seasons. He does dirty work inside, rejecting 1.2 shots per game for his career and is capable of hitting open 12-15 footers. Poeltl also provides sound passing, with a positive assist to turnover ratio.
He is non-existent from beyond the arc, having never attempted a 3 in his career, so he’s less of a floor-spacer than Nurkic, who is attempting and connecting on triples at a career-high rate and efficiency.
Also mentioned in Pincus’ report: Charlotte Hornets center Mason Plumlee. Blazers fans are familiar with the 6’11 center who spent the better part of two seasons in Portland during the mid-2010s. His bread and butter has been as a workhorse who battles on the offensive glass and presents himself as a lob threat in transition and the screen-and-roll. His career-high 4.1 assists per game this season places him fourth in assist to turnover ration among all centers averaging 2 or more dimes this season. That number goes along with averages of 9.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game this season. He could give a boost off the bench to a Trail Blazers team that is No. 19 in both assists and turnovers in the association.
All three players could be potential targets to remedy Portland’s lack of size across the roster. Bamba signed a two-year, $21 million deal in June. Jonas Nader from NBC Sports reports that Poeltl has the option to sign an extension for roughly $14 million in the offseason, but will be opting to test the waters in free agency where his market value projects to exceed that number. Currently he is making just over $9 million. Plumlee will be an unrestricted free agent come summer, and for the Blazers to make a trade work, they’ll have to work around his expiring $8.5 million salary for 2022-23.