If the Portland Trail Blazers are to avoid the despair of a half-decade rebuilding project, they need to make a big splash on the NBA trade market this summer. Portland has the coveted combination of young talent and draft picks to spend. Fans and analysts understand this, so the Blazers have been coupled with multiple star players in trade speculation.
Today and tomorrow, we’re going to look at the hottest names circling Portland’s orbit. We’ll start with a quartet we ran a poll about last week, adding a prominent center into the mix.
For each player, we want to evaluate how good the fit would be, the cost of trading for and keeping the player, and the probability that the player’s current team would actually consider dealing them. We’ll provide a shorthand rating of those factors on a scale of 1-10 for each, then provide a longer explanation of the pros and cons of each acquisition.
Bam Adebayo—6’9 Center
Stats: 20.4 points, 9.4 rebounds, 54.0% FG in 75 games
Contract: $33-37 million per year through 2026
Fit—8 Cost to Acquire—9, Cost to Keep—7, Probability—2
Bam Adebayo would be a premium-level acquisition for the Blazers. He’s routinely mentioned among the best defenders in the NBA. He’s hyper-efficient on offense. His motor won’t quit. He’s a one-man attitude change for a team that needs it desperately. Throw in a reasonable salary and that sign says, “Sold!”
A couple of questions linger. At 6’9, would Adebayo be better as a power forward long-term? He’s not a three-point shooter, but if nestled next to a Stretch 5, he’d be fine. Otherwise, he doesn’t necessarily help Portland’s lack of height along the front line. Given the opportunity, the Blazers would probably ignore this technicality and take a chance.
The bigger question is, why would Miami get rid of him? He’s only 25. He’s signed through 2026. If they were to plunge into a full-on rebuild, he’d still fit. The Heat have every incentive to keep him and almost none to move him, outside of getting a sheer superstar deal. That makes this move more of a pipe dream than a real bet.
Pascal Siakam—6’9 Power Forward/Center
Stats: 24.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 48.0% FG, 32.4% 3PT in 71 games
Contract: $38 million through 2024
Fit—10, Cost to Acquire—10, Cost to Keep—10, Probability—3
Pascal Siakam is everything the Blazers dream of. He’s an All- Star forward/center with strong defensive skills, plenty of experience, and a championship ring to his credit. Portland would be able to take full advantage of his scoring ability and his defensive prowess, at the same time relieving him of the one weakness that has plagued him since he became a superstar for the Toronto Raptors: clutch-time shot selection and playmaking. You could not ask for a more beautiful union than Siakam and Damian Lillard. They’d complement each other like milk and espresso.
Here’s the problem: Toronto values Siakam too. He IS their Damian Lillard. The only reason they’d consider parting with him is his impending free agency next summer. If they felt he wouldn’t stay, they’d be forced into a deal. But that doesn’t mean they’d let him go cheap. They’re going to ask a mint, just as Portland would if they were forced to trade Dame.
Unless pushed to the absolute extreme—which likely won’t happen this summer—the Raptors would not compromise with anything short of full franchise rebuilding potential in exchange for their most prominent player.
Siakam’s expiring contract would also plague the Blazers. If he wouldn’t stay in Toronto,—where he’s featured, incredibly well-compensated, and beloved—would he stay in Portland? If he does, you can bet he’ll be full max, forever, with all the options.
There would also be some question of whether Siakam and Jerami Grant belong in the same frontcourt long-term. Pascal would look nicer as a power forward than a center. But this would be a pleasant problem for the Blazers to have, provided they didn’t have to trade Grant to get Siakam in the first place.
Siakam may be the most expensive “get” on this list, but he’s also the most transformational. If they could pull it off while retaining any semblance of a team around him and Lillard, the Blazers should make the move. The chances aren’t high, though.
OG Anunoby—6’7 Small Forward
Stats: 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 47.6% FG, 38.7% 3PT in 67 games
Contract: $18.6 million through 2024 (player option in 2024-25 that he won’t take)
Fit—9, Cost to Acquire—8, Cost to Keep—7, Probability—4
A natural small forward who’s an apt defender and can shoot the three-pointer? The Blazers have been dreaming that dream since they parted ways with Nicolas Batum back in 2015.
Anunoby may be slightly overrated as a potential star in his own right, but he’d fit like a glove into Portland’s system in all respects but one: he’s not been a strong rebounder. The Blazers need one to slot in next to Jerami Grant.
That said, Portland could make up for the rebounding a lot easier than they could make up for the lack of legitimate size, defense, and shooting at the three-spot.
Like Siakam, Anunoby is carrying an expiring contract into next season. He has a player option in 2024-25, but $19 million won’t even begin to cover his price tag. He won’t pick it up. Expect to spend Adebayo/Grant-like money to keep him. The Blazers would need a guarantee that he’d extend his tour with them before acquiring him.
Though Anunoby wouldn’t cost as much as Siakam in trade, Toronto has no incentive to let him go cheaply unless he indicates explicitly he won’t re-sign with them. That’d be a silly move on his part, since they can offer him the maximum contract possible and set the market thereby. The Raptors reportedly turned down three first-round picks for him at the deadline. The price may not remain that high, but the Blazers would still have to overpay to get a deal done this summer. They’d not just be paying for Anunpby’s talent, but to overcome the chance that the young forward might re-up with the Raptors.
Though Anunoby would be a fine fit in Portland, the jury’s still out whether he would make enough difference on his own to justify the price, His age makes him a no-risk acquisition no matter which way the franchise fortunes go, but his ultimate cost may make the team think twice, especially since the trade would deplete Portland’s ability to take another big swing.
Jimmy Butler—6’7 Small Forward
Stats: 22.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 53.9% FG, 35.0% 3PT in 64 games
Contract: $45-52 million through 2026
Fit—8, Cost to Acquire—6, Cost to Keep—10, Probability—7
At first glance, Jimmy Butler appears to be an OG Anunoby-like acquisition, cranked up to 11. Butler has been a star in the league, has plenty of playoffs experience, can score in droves, and plays defense. He’s 33, not 25, but that fits Damian Lillard’s timeline just fine.
Looking closer, cracks appear. Statistically, Butler had a fine season. Practically speaking, he was on and off. It’s time to start asking whether his once-famed game is declining. If the answer isn’t an outright yes, you can sure see the off-ramp from here.
Butler has also been a chemistry issue on a couple teams. The Blazers could absorb that better than most, but it’s a concern nonetheless.
Just as great of a concern is his enormous contract. Between Butler and Lillard, the Blazers would end up spending 90% of their salary cap on two players in their mid-30’s. That’d become a serious concern as they age.
The cost of trading for Butler isn’t as high as some on this list, but there’s a reason for that. Miami knows they’ll soon be paying more money for less production. Unless they’re going to win a title, there’s no incentive to ride that out. So they’d let Butler go for cheaper than his obvious talent indicates.
If they thought about acquiring Butler, the Blazers would need to ask how they’d be any different. Are they picking up a championship piece or just absorbing Miami’s ice chips after the Heat sucked most of the juice out of this smoothie?
Unless they were sure that Butler was the key to their title aspirations, the Blazers would need to avoid this acquisition as Fool’s Gold that cost the same as real. Getting Jimmy Butler would be exciting for 3-6 months, but could turn into a major headache for the next 36.
Karl-Anthony Towns—6’11 Forward/Center
Stats: 20.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 49.5% FG, 36.6% 3PT in 29 games
Contract: $36 million through 2024
Fit—6, Cost to Acquire—7, Cost to Keep—8, Probability—6
A couple years ago, Karl-Anthony Towns looked like a potential generational center. Injuries and failure to lead his team to postseason success have squashed that talk. Though he’s still considered a star, half the league is waiting for the other shoe to drop. It might not be pretty.
Towns would instantly become the most talented frontcourt player the Blazers have fielded since LaMarcus Aldridge. That assessment is general, though. His stats were strong for the first seven years of his career, but they plummeted this season due to a severe calf strain that kept him out most of the year and limited his mobility even when he returned. Portland would be speculating, hoping for a return to classic form.
Towns is only 27, so that return could be expected. Even if it transpired, though, Towns is not a good defender. He’d solve Portland’s size issue, but it’d be a moot point on the end of the floor where they need the most help.
If the Timberwolves were looking to move on from Towns, it’d be because of his expiring contract and their assessment that he wasn’t a winning player despite the big numbers. The Blazers would need to reach the opposite conclusion. They’d also have to be willing to pay for him.
The first cost would come in trade. Having just moved all their future assets (and then some) for Rudy Gobert, the ‘Wolves cannot fire sale Towns. The only thing worse than impoverishing yourself for talent is impoverishing yourself and getting less talented in the process.
The second cost would come in re-signing Towns. Whether he resurges or not, he’s going to want to get paid based on his track record. Keeping him in Portland would cost a premium, with no guarantee of desirable results.
For these reasons, Towns is a risky bet for the Blazers. I don’t expect his name to warm up in Portland any time soon.
Tomorrow: More trade prospects, starting with Mikal Bridges. Offer suggestions in the comments if you think of someone you’d like analyzed.