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Running Down the Trail Blazers’ Prospects at the NBA Trade Deadline

Blazers trade rumors are flying thick and fast, but should the franchise actually execute moves over the next few days?

Atlanta Hawks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers approach Thursday’s NBA trade deadline with a number of veteran players carrying reported interest right across the league.

Malcolm Brogdon, Jerami Grant, Matisse Thybulle and the injured Robert Williams III have all been mentioned in trade rumors in recent weeks. Anfernee Simons was discussed as a potential trade asset early on but he’s probably staying in Portland following his recent play and the fact that he's only had 24 years on the planet.

General Manager Joe Cronin will no doubt be receiving calls on the above four names over the next few days, but whether he pulls the trigger remains to be seen. One factor that will assist the Blazers in negotiations is the dearth of fellow sellers, due predominantly to the introduction of the Play-In tournament and the reported poor 2024 draft class. It’s simple supply and demand, with fewer teams selling, the price for Portland players should theoretically go up.

On the court, the Blazers have been, at best, underwhelming this season. Brogdon, Grant, Thybulle, Anfernee Simons and Deandre Ayton have ensured most of their 49 games haven’t been a total embarrassment. While the young guys have genuinely come along in recent weeks, the potential departure of the roster’s sager heads would make the basketball virtually unwatchable.

The recent winning has seen the young players come out of their shells. If there’s anything we learnt from the Process Philadelphia 76ers, young teams still need to be competitive.

Jacked Ramsays co-host Danny Marang mentioned earlier this week that if the Blazers did do a deal, they wouldn’t necessarily be prioritizing draft picks.

Everything that I have heard, everything that I understand is that the Blazers are not prioritizing draft capital, they want players, they want tangible stuff, they don’t want any more lottery scratchers.

It has been very quiet. I know most of the league has checked in about Malcolm (Brogdon) and Jerami (Grant) because they’re good players and other teams want good players. I have heard of zero frameworks, offers regarding either player from either the Blazers or other sources.

I think they would rather have more guys with talent, size and skill that make sense going forward (like Wendell Carter Jr. of the Orlando Magic).

They’re just trying to get bigger, stronger, longer, more skilled. The one thing I’ve been told adamantly from everyone, inside, outside, up, down, the Blazers do not want to take a step back, they have taken their steps back, they don’t want to be Detroit or Washington. They don’t want to take this down.

I, and most others, probably read that as the Blazers want young players with promise who play the small forward, power forward or center positions. While picks are useful, they don’t shoot, pass and defend and the Blazers don’t need any more 62-point drubbings like the one inflicted by the Oklahoma City Thunder last month.

Below we discuss the candidates, their worth to Portland and the impact of them leaving. We also highlight the length of their remaining contracts, including this year’s salary.

Malcolm Brogdon

Age: 31 Position: Guard Contract: Two years, $45 million

23-24 stats: 39 games, 15.8 points, 41.6% 3pt, 3.7 boards, 5.5 assists, 0.7 steals

Possible suitors: Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Phoenix Suns,

Adequate Return: Protected first round pick, a young prospect, salary filler.

Worth to Portland: If you’d asked me a couple of months ago, I would have said he was as good as gone by the trade deadline. But more than the stats, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is a level-headed facilitator, with NBA smarts and deep Playoff experience.

He’s been a steady, veteran presence who has clearly had a positive impact on Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons. He’s also been important as a release valve for Chauncey Billups when the young guys appear out of their depth and unable to deal with the speed and physical nature of the NBA.

Impact of him leaving: Ironically, after years of too many guards, Brogdon leaving would severely thin out the Blazers backcourt stocks. Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Scoot Henderson (and 10-day contract Taze Moore) would be the only recognized guards on the roster, assuming another backcourt player doesn’t come back in said deal.

Moving Brogdon would signify the Blazers are happy with Henderson’s progression, believing he can handle more responsibility and minutes.

His place in the league: Among combo guards, Brogdon ranks 5th in assist rate, 14th from three, 16th from the corner three, 8th in defending without fouling.

Jerami Grant

Age: 29 Position: Forward Contract: Five years, $160 million

23-24 stats: 43 games, 21.3 points, 40.3% 3pt, 3.7 boards, 2.6 assists, 0.7 blocks, 0.7 steals

Adequate Return: First round pick (maybe two), a good young player, salary filler.

Possible suitors: Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies

Worth to Portland: Grant has been an important piece on both ends of the floor for the Blazers. During the leaner times, he’s been a reliable source of offense thanks to his ability to shoot anywhere on the court, unafraid of driving to the rim when the opportunity arises. On the other end, he’s taken on key defensive assignments, most notably Wednesday, quelling the impact of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s defensive versatility stems from his athleticism and ridiculous length (7’2 wingspan) making him good at the point of attack and in team defensive schemes.

Impact of him leaving: Step up Jabari Walker, Toumani Camara, Kris Murray and Rayan Rupert. A troupe of young forwards who are yet to sniff Grant’s impact on a game of basketball. I’d hazard a guess and suggest the Blazers would need frontcourt help in any return, given Marang’s assertion that the Blazers have no designs on going backwards. From what we understand it would have to be the sweetheart of sweetheart deals to pry Grant out of Cronin’s hands.

His place in the league: Among forwards, Grant ranks 22nd in assist rate, 17th from three, 25th from the corner three, 23rd in blocks.

Matisse Thybulle

Age: 26 Position: Wing Contract: Three years, $33 million (Player Option on final year)

23-24 stats: 47 games, 5.6 points, 36.6% 3pt, 2.0 boards, 1.2 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.8 blocks

Adequate Return: Late first round pick or two second round picks, salary filler.

Possible suitors: Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers

Worth to Portland: The Australian national representative is one of the best disruptors in the league, conjuring up steals and blocks out of nowhere. His renewed ability to hit the long ball has made Thybulle one of the more impressive 3 and D wings and would no doubt be put to good use on a contender.

Impact of him leaving: Toumani Camara would be saddled with a lot of the point of attack work. I’m not saying the young Belgian wouldn’t step up and perform admirably but he’s still only a rookie and needs support. Camara is nowhere near the offensive player Thybulle is so that also causes problems for Chauncey Billups and his staff who are already dealing with the league’s second worst offense.

His place in the league: Among wings, Thybulle ranks 1st in steal rate, 1st in deflections, 4th in block rate, 9th in two-point shots, 24th in effective field goal percentage, 11th in midrange shots.

Robert Williams III

Age: 26 Position: Big Contract: Three years, $37 million

23-24 stats: 6 games, 6.8 points, 6.3 boards, 0.8 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.2 steals.

Adequate Return: Multiple second round picks, young player salary filler.

Possible suitors: Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers

Worth to Portland: In the six games he played for the Blazers, Williams showed us the savvy, athletic veteran skills that helped the Boston Celtics to repeat deep playoff runs. He’s not playing again until next season, which no doubt drops his trade value.

Impact of him leaving: I’d wait until next season when Williams can get back on the court and increase his value. But he’s departure isn’t impacting this team this season.

His place in the league: In a small size, among bigs, Williams ranks 7th in points per shot attempt, 5th in steal rate, 18th in block rate, 13th in midrange.

Conclusion

As always, it comes down to the return package for said veteran player. If Marang’s suggestion that the Blazers don’t want to get worse, then maybe Cronin is a little more muted leading up to Thursday's buzzer.

A quiet deadline would buck the trend for young rebuilding teams gathering assets (mostly of the draft pick variety). But maybe it’d be more prudent to focus on young players you know can contribute as opposed to picks that may or may not turn into that same young player down the line.

The Blazers should be active over the next five days in the sense of making and fielding calls. But like in any negotiation, they can't settle for the sake of making a deal. Perhaps, more importantly, you don’t do a deal that leads to more losses and the potential stifling of development and culture for a young group.

The above four players are all signed beyond this season, so there’s no rush to move them on. But if there’s a deal for one of the veterans that includes the young player you’ve been seeking, you do that deal in the heartbeat.