Do Portland Trail Blazers Need a Trade Before the Deadline?

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Do Portland Trail Blazers Need a Trade Before the Deadline?
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An offensive-minded starting five and a revamped bench have certainly made the Portland Trail Blazers one of the surprise teams in the NBA during the 2013-14 season.

Led by budding superstar point guard Damian Lillard and resurgent power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, head coach Terry Stotts' crew is safely among the five best Western Conference teams.

But is Portland ready to make a playoff run with its current roster, or do the Blazers need to make a move before the trade deadline?

In fact, there is one glaring issue that will hamper the Blazers' quest for their first league championship since 1977.

 

Biggest Area of Need

Ron Hoskins/Getty Images
Portland has trouble stopping players in the post, and a driving Paul George isn't easy to defend, either.

Portland is, shall we say, not lacking in the scoring department.

From a pair of 20-point scorers in Aldridge and Lillard to double-digit contributors Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez, the Trail Blazers find the bottom of the net.

A lot. Like, leading the league at 107.8 points per night, a lot.

However, it's that whole defense thing that constantly hampers Stotts' squad, considering Portland allows 103.4 points per game, which ranks fifth-worst in the league.

Now, it would be one thing if teams catch fire and simply light up the Blazers from the outside, but opponents aren't doing that. Portland gets absolutely manhandled inside, allowing 46.2 points in the paint, ranking third-worst in the NBA.

The Blazers need to improve their interior defense, because Aldridge, Lopez, Joel Freeland, Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard are not cutting it.

 

Ways to Address Weakness

A name that has been thrown around NBA circles as a potential trade candidate is Omer Asik of the Houston Rockets. A trade for the Turkish center is rather intriguing. Asik has on multiple occasions expressed his discontent with his current role, which is playing second fiddle to Dwight Howard on the blocks.

However, as noted in the accompanying video, Portland likely is unwilling to part with any of its current assets to acquire Asik, and it's unclear that the Rockets would be interested in anything the Blazers would offer. Plus, the Blazers do not have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, and trading away the 2015 pick is a real James Dolan-like thing to do.

As mentioned in the above video, the Philadelphia 76ersSpencer Hawes is another option, and Portland would almost certainly have to include the second-year Leonard in a trade.

Which of the following should be Portland's preferred method of improving the frontcourt?

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Hawes does have an expiring contract, so the Blazers' brass must decide whether they want Stotts and Co. to go for it all this season or continue to build for the future. Whereas Hawes provides that immediate impact and extra depth, Leonard is a player Portland can attempt to develop into a serviceable center and a defensive specialist.

Another asset who would not require a trade is second-year forward Thomas Robinson, who boasts a per-36 minute average of 14.4 points and 11.9 rebounds. In early December, Bleacher Report's Wes Goldberg discussed whether the Kansas product has a future with Portland.

The Blazers can shop around the league, but behind renting Hawes, giving Robinson more playing time is a viable option.

 

The Verdict

As the roster currently stands, it would take a miracle for Portland to make a serious run at an NBA championship.

In the playoffs, there is very little chance the Blazers can overcome a team with an offensive attack that both plays defense and offensively capitalizes on post-up opportunities. Portland has proven it can beat the league's best on a given night, but a seven-game series is a different story.

So, yes, the Blazers front office definitely needs to discuss the possibility of making a trade to improve to the team's interior defense.

With that being said, Sean Deveney of Sporting News notes Stotts does not anticipate any roster changes:

We can and we need to improve defensively with what we have now, because I don’t anticipate any roster changes. Our growth is going to have to come from within. Our young players are going to have to continue to improve, our starters are going to have to continue to remain engaged.

 

Portland is trapped in an unenviable situation, caught between the risk of shaking up one of the most formidable offensive attacks and a roster in clear need of a specific upgrade. Without that upgrade, the Blazers cannot survive in the playoffs. But disrupting their current—and promising—situation carries an even greater risk.

Even though it should, Portland will probably not make noise in the trade market. Yet that's actually the proper decision.

 

Note: Stats taken from NBA.comBasketball-Reference.com, TeamRankings.com and HoopsStats.com and accurate as of Feb. 8, 2014.

Follow Bleacher Report NBA Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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