The Portland Trailblazers have not made a blockbuster trade since they were formed in 1970 (Omitting Jusuf Nurkić in 2017, who at the time was not seen as a star). Just over the mid-way point of the season, Portland sits at the 4th spot in the Western conference, with a record of
28-19. With that record, the Blazers are almost assured a playoff spot, but the western conference is in a dead lock – only 6.5 games separate Portland (4th) and Memphis (14th). The 2018 NBA playoffs were a bust for Portland, and if they hope to avoid a sweep this year to the stacked western conference, they’ll have to make some major moves this trade deadline or wait to land someone big this summer.
The Portland Trailblazers need size. The backcourt duo of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard is one of the best in the league and the addition of Nurkić in 2017 turned out to be very beneficial – as Nurkić averaging 15 points along with 10 rebounds a game – something Portland hasn’t seen since the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015. But without a sizeable stretch forward, the Trailblazers won’t make it far in the playoffs for years to come.
Questionable contracts riddle the Trailblazers roster (Evan Turner $17.8 million a year through 2020, and Meyers Leonard $10.5 million a year through 2020). Turner is averaging 8.1 PPG and 4.7 RPG – these numbers are not worth the paycheck, and unfortunately, it will be a hard contract to trade off. With that said, Turner does add tremendous value to the team, adding 427 points off assists this season, and while his meager 3-point percentage of 17.5% makes his value drop, he is taking less 3-pointers than most of the team – about one attempt per game. Meyers Leonard is averaging 5.8 PPG and 4.1 RPG – which are solid statistics for a role player, but his pay stub isn’t that of a role player. But Meyers Leonard averages 14.5 PPG and 10.4 RPG per 36 minutes (Basketball-Reference), raising the question of whether or not another team would take him on as a starter. He also has the 4th best Player Efficiency Rating on the team (behind Nurkić, Lillard, and McCollum).
The need for a solid stretch power-forward or a sharpshooting small-forward is at the forefront of the Trailblazers concerns this February 7th. Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Love would fit that role perfectly, but with injuries to both these players, it would be a huge risk. Nikola Mirotic could suffice as well, but his contract matches that of Meyers Leonard, and Mirotic will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, making any move to acquire Mirotic somewhat of a risk. The Knicks are not likely to move Porzingis, as he is the future of an organization in the process of a rebuild. Kevin Love is more likely to move, but his injury would prevent him from moving before the trade deadline, and both Turner and Leonard don’t hold enough value for this trade to make sense for Cleveland.
While this trade deadline looks like it is going to come and go with no moves from the Trailblazers, this summer provides opportunity for them to move some players around. Both Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard will be unrestricted free agents in 2020, and if the Trailblazers decide not to resign them, they could pay to bring another super-star into Portland.