Given that this is a light week in terms of Portland Trail Blazers games (Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz being the only game of the week), we’re going to pivot to another Blazer-related issue: trade targets.
With the deadline for non-waiver trades set at February 7, and Portland in its fourth season of being “pretty good, not a contender,” the Blazers are getting mentioned in many a trade rumor dirt sheet. While none of these trades are likely to ever happen given Portland President of Basketball Ops Neil Olshey’s unflagging loyalty to his players—not to mention the team’s lack of permanent ownership and the Blazers’ bloated cap situation—it’s still fun to float trade ideas.
This trade season got 100 times more interesting when the New Orleans Pelicans were told that their superstar big man, Anthony Davis, wanted to be traded, and that the Blazers have emerged as a very dark-horse candidate for his services. Davis is the biggest fish, but he isn’t the only one.
A partial list of players the Blazers might theoretically target in a trade:
Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr.: The two Washington Wizards wings make nearly identical salaries and are each locked up for three years. Even though Porter is overpaid, this would still be a good foundation for the future, if not for two huge problems:
· The Wiz have chemistry that’s as toxic as an average Overwatch ranked game.
· John Wall will be owed $170 million over the next four years, is out for the year with a heel injury, and has a game based on athleticism…which has slowly been sapped as the injuries start to pile up.
While Ernie Grunfeld is in charge in DC, he won’t ever move either Porter or Beal unless he got a Godfather offer that no one will present. However, let’s assume that he chokes on a chicken bone tomorrow and the Wiz have a new decision-maker—one that finds the idea of owing Wall, Beal and Porter $90 million in a single year unpalatable. That person will find some opportunities for getting out from under those contracts, including in Portland.
CJ McCollum isn’t available here; trading him for Beal is a lateral move that wouldn’t make sense for Washington, and McCollum’s size isn’t enough of an issue that Portland would dump him for the clearly inferior Porter. There is an intriguing trade that would help both teams, though.
Trading Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu for Porter works both in the cap sheet and on the court. Porter is basically a fusion of Chief and the Villain with better outside shooting and slightly worse defense. The Blazers get a player who may not move the needle as much as some of the other guys I’ll name later, but Aminu is a free agent after this season, and Turner’s playmaking is not valuable enough to keep him over Porter; Seth Curry could do his job in a pinch, and Porter can play the 2, 3, or 4.
Trading away an expiring contract and an expensive veteran for an even more expensive younger veteran is a risk, but Portland won’t be signing anyone with Porter’s talent anytime soon, even with Aminu’s cheapo contract coming off the books.
From the Wizards’ perspective, they get a little relief of their cap space this summer, and Turner will leave the summer after that. They get two battle-tested playoff veterans now, and savings for later. It’s too bad only a dumbass would give Olshey Beal for Chief and the Villain, but the on-court fit would be awkward; he’d clash with CJ for playing time, and Beal is too small to play the 3 anyway.
Carmelo Anthony: On a minimum salary this season, Melo is a shrunken shadow of the player who was a scoring machine. He’s been linked to Portland for years as a theoretical source of “instant offense” off the bench, but given how his run in Oklahoma City went, and the fact that Houston—which signed him to that dirt-cheap contract—basically dumped him for nothing, Anthony should be treated in the same manner as radioactive monkey crap.
His Chicago Bulls “teammate” Robin Lopez, however…let’s just say I found a trade that will send Meyers Leonard over with a couple cheap youngsters. Come on, doesn’t the thought of RoLo backing up Jusuf Nurkic excite you just a little bit? Lopez is even on an expiring contract!
Assorted Miami Heat players: The Heat have a boatload of good-to-useful rotation players, yet no stars. Their cap space is also horribly clogged, and they’ve spent years looking for some Draino.
Aminu’s expiring contract offers a bit of potential relief. A trade Portland could suggest is shooting guard Josh Richardson for Aminu and another player/a first-round pick. If Heat president Pat Riley wants to save the whole of Richardson’s $9 million+ annual salary (over a four-year contract), Nik Stauskas can be thrown in. If Riley wants some youth back, Anfernee Simons or a future first works, too.
Richardson is a useful player the Blazers could acquire for a low cost, but there are other pieces if they want to think big. Portland doesn’t need Hassan Whiteside, and Tyler Johnson’s odious contract is a millstone that’ll never be shifted, but how about this deal:
Miami gets: Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard
Portland gets: Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, James Johnson
Winslow has a reputation as a non-shooter, but he’s quietly been shooting 38 percent on three-pointers since 2017-18. He’s also on a three-year extension worth a very palatable $13 million per year, and is a brick wall on defense who can play the 3 or the 4—and he even has some playmaking skills. He’d be the real prize of the trade, but Richardson’s shooting and Johnson’s general badassery would also help the Blazers, even if Johnson’s work ethic might lag if he ever left the demanding confines of Miami’s workaholic culture.
The Heat would prefer to dump Whiteside or Dion Waiters rather than trade useful players like the three above, but there are some benefits for Miami in this hypothetical swap. Aminu would leave after the season, and Harkless and Leonard would be a combined $21 million worth of expiring contracts to dangle in 2020, sweetener in case they do find a disgruntled star to trade for. If nothing else, Riley and Co. would get out of their self-imposed cap prison a couple years earlier—and for the septuagenarian Riley, every year not competing for championships or signing big-name free agents is a galling waste.
Marc Gasol: This name has been floated around the Blazers’ media lately, and I honestly have no idea why. Two years ago, Portland would have been thrilled to have Big Spain manning the middle. This season, though, Nurk has outperformed him, and Gasol has shown his age after nagging ankle injuries.
I suppose the Blazers could offer Harkless, Leonard, and a first-round pick, let the 34-year-old Gasol backup Nurk/get healthy, and have some real size and experience coming off the bench. If Olshey can’t convince Gasol to decline his $25 million player option for 2019-2020, Portland should say no; having a backup that’s so expensive is not a good thing.
If the Grizz offer Gasol for CJ McCollum (or Mike Conley for McCollum and draft picks), Olshey should be really rude, laugh really loud into his phone, hang up, then block Chris Wallace’s number.
Anthony Davis: OK then, let’s get to the meat of the matter. How could the Trail Blazers acquire the most talented power forward since Prime Tim Duncan?
Trade 1: AD for CJ McCollum, straight up. New Orleans hangs up immediately.
Trade 2: AD, Solomon Hill, and Julius Randle for McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, and two future Portland first-round picks. This would be a move designed to keep the Pellies kinda competitive in a small, flagging market while hoping one of two things happen (preferably both): either Collins or Simons becomes an All-Star, or the Blazers lose both Davis and Lillard and one of the future picks they gave up conveys in the high lottery. Both seem very unlikely, and New Orleans would only do this if they were desperate. To be fair, this is a good haul—just not as good as what they could get from the Boston Celtics in July (Jayson Tatum).
Trade 3: AD for McCollum, Nurkic, Carrie Brownstein, 30 hipster Mason jars filled with the sacred snow of Mt. Hood, and all Voodoo Doughnuts shops. My friend and editor Bryant Knox suggested this…after about five shots of whiskey. He does have a point, though—who says no to all that?
Trade 4: AD, Jrue Holiday, and Randle for Damian Lillard, McCollum, and Al-Farouq Aminu. Just for schadenfreude.
Kevin Love: Love is injured, Love makes $30-plus million each year over four years, and Love is on the wrong side of 30. Cleveland at least calls about dumping the prodigal son to Portland for Turner, Leonard, and a pick/youngster. Olshey thinks about it for about 17 seconds, then hangs up.
Andrew Wiggins: If the thought of paying Wiggins alpha money for beta production and the personality of an emotionally abused cuckold didn’t disgust me, I’d be intrigued by this. Swapping McCollum for a tall, athletic wing similar to Wiggins is the dream of Rip Citizens that realize a Lillard-McCollum backcourt won’t ever be the anchor for a contending team.
Wiggins, however, is not the answer—not for Portland, not for any other wing-starved franchise, and probably not for even his own team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Kemba Walker: Someone on Twitter suggested McCollum and a first-round pick for Walker and Marvin Williams. As fun as it would be to see Kemba and Dame team up like Goku and Vegeta, the Blazers would still have the same problem: a Tiny Ass Backcourt. Walker is also a free agent after this season, so…pass.
Wednesday, Jan. 30: vs. Utah Jazz, 7:30 PM, ESPN
The Blazers play the Jazz on Wednesday, and Lillard has been nursing an injury lately; Turner is also hurt. As of Tuesday night, I haven’t heard whether or not Lillard is officially out. I’m going to assume Portland sits him so he can rest. If that’s the case, Utah will clobber the Blazers.
The series between these division rivals has been very random this year. I hate having to predict games like these; part of me is secretly glad I forgot to preview the MLK Day tilt between these clubs.
I’m going to say Utah wins this game.
Trail Blazers’ Record Last Week: 2-1
Trail Blazers’ Record Overall: 31-20
Jared’s Picks Last Week: 3-0
Jared’s Picks Overall: 30-20