The Portland Trail Blazers are still in the hunt for play-in seeding in the NBA Western Conference, but their recent five-game losing streak at the most pivotal portion of the season has dimmed their odds.
The Blazers are currently 31-39, eight games below .500. Yet and still, they remain only 2.5 games behind the No. 10 seeded Los Angeles Lakers (34-37) with 12 games remaining.
But no worries. Just in the nick of time, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report published offseason trade ideas for what he deems are the league’s ‘Most Hopeless Teams,’ saying this regarding the Blazers:
“Too small, lacking versatility and short on shutdown options, Portland needs further roster rebalancing to make good on promises to chase contention during [Damian] Lillard’s prime. Enter O.G. Anunoby, an opponent-field-goal percentage destroyer who ranks third in the entire league in Defensive Estimated Plus/Minus,” Hughes said.
“Among wings who’ve defended at least 75 isolation possessions, nobody holds opponents to fewer points per play than Anunoby. He spent much of this season in trade rumors, but it seems the multiple-first-round-pick packages Toronto [Raptors] may have wanted to execute a deal weren’t offered. Perhaps the Raptors, less than enthused about Anunoby’s looming pay raise in 2024 free agency, would be willing to take back a lead guard in Anfernee Simons and a lightly protected first-rounder this offseason.
Precious Achiuwa’s physical tools make him more than a salary-matching inclusion here. Essentially positionless, the 6’8” mystery box has so far been an inefficient offensive player whose athletic gifts haven’t translated into the elite steal or block rates you’d expect.”
The proposed deal would send Blazers G Simons and a future 2025 top-four protected first round pick to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for F Anunoby and C Achiuwa. The deal holds pragmatic credence for several reasons.
Primarily, both teams would get what they desperately need. Portland’s two biggest Achilles’ heels have been interior presence at center and overall defense. Anunoby is a top-shelf perimeter defender that can switch 1-4 and provide tertiary offense to the tune of 16.7 points per game on 47.0 percent field goal shooting and 37.7 percent three-point shooting.
While Anunoby is a step below Simons in overall offensive output, the former averages 23.1 points per 100 possessions and is more than capable of breaching the 20-point barrier — scoring 20 or more points in 16 games this season. What he lacks on the offensive end, he more than makes up with defense and size.
Achiuwa brings interior presence to the floor. While undersized at 6-8, the Nigerian center is athletic, can fill the lane in transition and present a legitimate lob threat for Lillard and company out of the screen-and-roll. His imposition inside is promulgated more on offense rather than defense, but would provide punch to a Blazers depth chart lacking much.
Conversely, Simons would provide Toronto with a dynamic offensive weapon that has the potential to be a 25-point-per-game scorer in the league. The departure of Kawhi Leonard following their 2019 championship season left them with a void on the offensive side that has not been filled, even with stellar play from 2023 All-Star Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.
Monetarily, Simons is owed $24.1 million in 2023-24, $25.8 million in 2024-25 and $27.6 million inn 2025-26. Meanwhile, Anunoby and Achiuwa are on the books for roughly $23 million in 2023-24 and $26.2 million in 2024-25. The contracts work perfectly. Blazers management would have to ask themselves if a potential lottery pick in 2025 is worth the pair, but a deal of this magnitude would otherwise be a step in the right direction.
Though, the Trail Blazers would still need to find themselves a tall, defensive-oriented center that has an element of variance to his offensive game outside of rim-running and dunking if they are to resurface from the bottom of the conference as legitimate contenders moving forward.