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Forecasting the NBA Trade Deadline for the Trail Blazers

Portland could make a move, but will they?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 NBA Trade Deadline hits tomorrow and the Portland Trail Blazers have veterans available to dangle in front of 29 other NBA franchises. Malcolm Brogdon is the hottest name on the roster, but veteran forward Jerami Grant and even guard Anfernee Simons have been mentioned in casual—sometimes more than casual—conversation. Will the next 24 hours be hot for the Blazers? That’s the subject of this Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

Dave,

Tell me whether you think we’ll trade JG or Brogdon this week. I know we’re supposed to be patient with a rebuild but I’m ready for the next phase to start now. Can we get young players and picks to speed up the process? I don’t see us going anywhere with the older guys. As good as they are they’re just not good enough. Do you agree?

Peter

The Blazers are at an odd juncture right now. As you point out, they’re rebuilding, fielding an incomplete roster. Instinctively, you’d think that would argue for a trade. Practically speaking, though, their roster has so many holes that it’s not entirely recognizable. Two things stand out:

  1. They don’t have a clear superstar around which to build, now or in the future. Lacking that, they don’t know how all the positions around that potential superstar will fall into place. If they get him, what position will he play? What skills will he have? What kind of player would best complement him?
  2. They can’t get that superstar in trade, nor can they make a move significant enough to change their fortunes this year materially.

Combined, those factors eliminate one of the primary impulses that drives deals: immediate improvement. The Blazers have no Immediate Basketball Reason (tm) to make a move.

Lacking that crucial factor, Portland’s willingness to engage in trade talks will center exclusively over reward and/or price. Opposing teams will need to convince Joe Cronin that they’ve got a guaranteed great offer to get him interested.

Think of this like refurnishing your house after you’ve renovated and completely changed the design. Before you spend money on that new living room set, you’re going to want to have some idea about the overall design. You’re not going to get a purple recliner until you’re sure it will match the drapes and sofa. You’re really not going to go out and buy a fancy, expensive end table, committing yourself to building the rest of the room around it.

Here’s the caveat. If the furniture store is offering a great deal—say 70-80% off clearance—and the piece in question is versatile enough to go with just about any decor, you’ll probably bite on that. If you find a piece at a good price that you can tuck around the corner, that doesn’t interfere with any of your main design decisions, you’d do that too.

That’s where the Blazers are. Give them a piece they can use anywhere, or a potential building block—either or both at a good price—and of course they’re going to be interested. If not, this isn’t the time.

That word, “time” needs to be underlined hard in the minds of Blazers fans. Everybody knows Portland needs to make deals, the front office more than anyone. But if they’re going to trade now, they have to justify why this is the right juncture as opposed to this summer or next trade deadline. More opportunities will open then. Players like Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant should be just as attractive at that point, if the Blazers decide they don’t need them. Making a move now means that this is the best deal not just in February, 2024, but for the foreseeable future. That’s a higher bar to clear than your run-of-the-mill swap.

For those reasons, I expect Portland to be fairly quiet at the deadline, barring sweetheart offers from desperate playoffs contenders. The Blazers will make their move at some point. Best guess is, it’ll come when they have more knowledge and more options.

Thanks for the question! You all can send yours to blazersub@gmail.com and we’ll try to get to as many as possible!