In Bleacher Report’s list of 1 Question Every NBA Team Needs to Answer at the Trade Deadline, writer Grant Hughes said the burning question Portland must answer is what direction will the franchise take in its roster re-tooling?
Portland’s roster construction faces two major dilemmas going forward: Contracts for starters Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington will expire this offseason and the team features an expensive, bloated backcourt. No matter what the Blazers decide to do with these players, Hughes said they must avoid the repeater tax.
If the Blazers are over the luxury-tax threshold at season’s end, they’ll face stiff tax penalties in each of the next two league years. If they get under, the clock—which is triggered when a team is in the tax for three out of four seasons—will reset.
When it comes to decisions about the expiring contracts and expensive backcourt, the Blazers have options. However, Hughes is curious if any of these options will upset franchise superstar Damian Lillard, the team’s most untouchable asset.
Dumping Nurkic and Covington for picks and tax relief would probably irk Lillard, who’s said he doesn’t have interest in rushing a return this year if Portland strips talent and tanks. You have to wonder how he’d feel if the Blazers also moved CJ McCollum, Norman Powell or even breakout guard Anfernee Simons, who might be the sweetener necessary to dump the team’s worst contracts.
Along with Lillard, Hughes said guard Anfernee Simons is the other piece Portland should try to keep.
The Blazers should prioritize keeping and re-signing Simons, and Lillard is locked in on a huge deal. Everything else should be on the table, though, and all of that uncertainty exists against the backdrop of those tax concerns.