5 Trade Targets to Elevate Portland Trail Blazers to Elite Status
When it comes to making the leap from good to great, or even great to elite, most NBA teams are forced to bring in a star.
When it comes to the 2013-14 Portland Trail Blazers, no such move is necessary, as the starting five is as good as it comes across the Association.
With the Feb. 20 trade deadline looming, what Portland needs is depth. We’ve been hearing this since the 2012-13 campaign, and while we thought significant strides were made this past offseason, the team is still one of the worst in terms of second-unit production.
Despite being healthy most of the year, Portland has been hit with the injury bug at an inopportune time. Accord to The Oregonian's Joe Freeman, both LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard are expected to miss time following All-Star Weekend, which makes Joel Freeland's MCL sprain from before the break that much worse.
Don’t expect to see a major blowup, as there's no need to panic in Rip City; but if general manager Neil Olshey is smart, he’ll sacrifice a bit of chemistry with a run at a title in mind.
*All rankings, standings and statistics are current as of Feb. 18, 2014.
*All salary information is courtesy of HoopsHype.com.
Before diving into whom the Portland Trail Blazers should target, we have to consider the assets they have entering the deadline.
Unfortunately for GM Neil Olshey, the list is fairly short.
It goes without saying that Portland wouldn't mind giving up a number of players from the second unit. However, as you can imagine, assets must be desirable to other teams, which makes wheeling and dealing difficult for this organization.
At this point, C.J. McCollum could be considered Portland's top asset. Allen Crabbe and Will Barton offer similar offensive potential (for those looking to buy low), but McCollum has already done a good job of putting his potential on display.
Then there's the frontcourt. Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard are ultra-athletic bigs, but Joel Freeland is the one who's produced up to this point.
Portland wouldn't mind breaking up the trio of modest big men, but finding sellers before Feb. 20 is a must if Olshey wants to improve this roster.
LaMarcus Aldridge may believe that the Portland Trail Blazers are fine with Meyers Leonard (when healthy) taking the place of the injured Joel Freeland, per Chris Haynes of CSNNW, but fans who have watched the big man play this season just might disagree.
Up to this point, Leonard and Thomas Robinson have failed to live up to expectations. Both have high ceilings and unique skill sets, but entering the postseason with them as go-to options off the bench is hardly a recipe for success, even with a potentially healthy Freeland.
The Blazers must be willing to sacrifice chemistry for production, and Brandon Bass would be a solid option to make that happen. CBS Boston has reported that the 28-year-old could be on the move, and Portland would be smart to see where his value stands at this juncture.
On the year, Bass is averaging 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Boston Celtics, and more importantly, he's willing to stay within his role. He's not a three-point shooter, and he doesn't try to be one (see: Leonard), which makes him reliable game in and game out.
Consider Omer Asik's inclusion on this list an honorable mention.
If the Blazers were to acquire Asik from the Houston Rockets, it would bring a whole new dynamic to the frontcourt. The problem is, making it happen would take a serious sacrifice in chemistry, and while a small surrender is okay, now is clearly not the time to mess with a good thing.
According to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN (Insider), one deal that could help both sides would be this: Asik, Omri Casspi and Donatas Motiejunas to Portland for Wesley Matthews and Meyers Leonard. Adding the first three pieces to the Blazers' rotation would do wonders for their depth, but ridding the roster of Matthews is likely too much to ask for.
Clearly, the team can afford to lose a shooter, but Matthews isn't the first choice. He's hitting 41 percent from downtown, he's a true three-and-D presence and he's become one of the few vocal leaders on an inexperienced roster.
Portland fans are likely shouting at their screens by now at the thought of this taking place, but we'd be remiss to ignore the fact that Asik is an option—one that would help one of the biggest areas of weakness.
The fact that the Portland Trail Blazers have no 2014 first-round picks is a problem for trade purposes; however, there are teams out there that are desperate to shed salary, giving Portland options.
Enter the Los Angeles Lakers.
In the midst of a tumultuous season, L.A. should be willing to part with just about anybody. Jordan Hill is no exception, as we've already heard about the Lakers discussing a possible trade with the Brooklyn Nets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Hill is a banger inside who would complement LaMarcus Aldridge well off the bench. He also wouldn't cost Portland too much at the deadline, as B/R's Dan Favale points out:
Even if trading Hill only brings the Lakers a second-round selection while lightening their $79 million-plus salary load, it's worth it. More than worth it. Send him to a team—a contender, perhaps—where he fits in—where he plays for more than an inadvertent tank job. That moving him makes the Lakers worse is merely a bonus, and it is a bonus.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, they have no second-round picks to offer until 2019, according to RealGM, but young assets on rookie contracts might be enough to entice this re-tooling franchise.
Sticking with the big-man theme, let's consider a center who has been linked to the Portland Trail Blazers in the past.
Chris Kaman has gotten a raw deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. He's struggled to find minutes in Mike D'Antoni's rotation, and despite being on a team that could desperately use his services, he's seen action in just 29 contests the entire 2013-14 campaign.
"I've never been a part of a team [like this]," the 7-footer said recently, according to ESPN.com's Dave McMenamin. "I think it's a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people."
It may be tough for most to comprehend what's happening in Tinseltown, but Kaman has legitimate gripes about his playing time. In Portland, there's no doubt the team would utilize him off the bench, as he'd be an excellent fit behind Robin Lopez and alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Blazers and Lakers haven't been known to swing deals in the past, but with Kaman not caring if he's dealt or not this season, according to a separate McMenamin report, Neil Olshey should see what he can do. Kaman is on a one-year deal, leaving plenty of room for long-term flexibility if the team nabs him at the deadline.
Spencer Hawes isn't the gritty defender Portland needs in the post, but he would be a huge help off the bench when it comes to putting the ball in the basket.
At 25 years old, Hawes can be a piece for the future, should Neil Olshey choose to go that route. He's averaging 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on the year, and he's the kind of player who fits Portland's system well—a big who can spread the floor.
That said, he's also on an expiring contract, giving Olshey the freedom to let him go if the rental doesn't work.
In a recent interview with B/R's Alex Lefkoe, CSNNW's Chris Haynes described Hawes as a complement to Robin Lopez. Lopez, who is the only traditional low-post player on Portland's roster, won't do much in the department of spreading defenses, but that's a specialty of Hawes', as he's shooting 40.3 percent from deep range on 3.9 attempts per night.
Regardless of how healthy Joel Freeland is come playoff time, Portland needs more bench production. At this juncture, Hawes could provide the solution.