You’ve heard me beat the drum on pace, steals, and three-pointers with the Portland Trail Blazers this year, and I’m back again with players that can help that out this trade deadline. Specifically, they should be hunting for someone who excels at both stealing the ball and making three-point shots. While this player won’t be the most glamorous acquisition, the Blazers don’t have much to give up to make it happen. My initial go-to while writing this was former Wizards, now Los Angeles Lakers forward Rui Hachimura. He’s been on my radar since coming into the league with the Wizards, but they have since traded for Kristaps Porzingus and Kyle Kuzma, effectively taking his minutes away. With Rui gone, let’s look at three other players that will help bolster both offense and defense for this year’s Blazers squad.
Buddy Hield – 42.2 % 3P – 17.5 PPG
Hield has been a sniper from downtown since he’s been in the league, averaging 40% from three for his career. Because of this, Hield is always being talked about in trades. His game goes beyond the three-point line now, as he has shown a willingness to step in the paint and score efficiently (almost 50% this year). While he doesn’t fit both needs of steals and three-point shots, his defense is still above average. His oversized frame allows him to play and guard some small forwards. However, Hield will be a highly sought-after player at this deadline, so look for a team to overpay for him.
Jae Crowder – Hasn’t Played This Year
Crowder is an interesting player to me. It all starts with what’s going on in Phoenix this year. Jae told the front office to trade him, and he has refused to play any games this year. It intrigues me because Phoenix has been to at least the Western Conference Finals in the past two years. Is it something with Chris Paul or head coach Monty Williams? We don’t know the answer to that. When Jae is on the court, he has been regarded as the premier example of a “Three and D” player, meaning he’ll make spot-up three-pointers when needed and guard the best player on the team effectively. While his shooting percentages were down last year (34% from three), the defense was there, gathering a 3.4 defensive win share, averaging 1.4 steals per game. In my opinion, I would want the complete details about why he’s sitting out before I would go after Crowder. Ultimately, the Suns have no leverage in the negotiations, given Crowder has expressed his feeling about not playing, so he should be the cheapest alternative on this list.
Kelly Oubre Jr. – 20.2 PPG – 1.6 SPG
Oubre is averaging career highs in practically every category this year. I was surprised to see him at 20.2 points per game. What’s been more surprising is his defense. As mentioned before, he’s averaging 1.6 steals per game and scoring on the fast break, something the Blazers need. Oubre’s contract is up this year, making him a prime candidate for trading, as the Hornets are going into tank mode, it seems, given the trade rumors swirling around Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, and Oubre. The only downside in trading for Oubre right now would be that he’s out until early February with a torn ligament in his shooting hand. How coaches and GMs think he will come back from that injury predates how much the breakout wing will garner from the rest of the league.
I get these three players aren’t “sexy” picks like John Collins or Myles Turner, but the Blazers don’t need another big man. Between Nurk and Eubanks, the Blazers have a top-ten defensive frontcourt. The Blazers can’t trade for either player unless they want to give up Nurk. In my opinion, it would be a lateral move. Let’s sure up the wing/forward position with some defensive intensity, as the current layout isn’t hitting. Shaedon Sharpe, while ultra-athletic, gets lost on defense, especially in the pick-and-roll. Nassir Little, Jabari Walker, Trendon Watford, Greg Brown III, and Justise Winslow all have been underwhelming this year on both ends of the court. I understand injuries have played a role in the development of these guys, whether it be to them or the team’s leaders, but every team in the league has had to deal with injuries. Let’s hope the Blazers get out there and jump on one of these guys. That way, we can watch a deep playoff run come April.