Blazers Have Abundant Trade Targets


The Portland Trail Blazers have been disastrous after their surprisingly hot start to the 2022-23 campaign.

After going 10-4 in their first 14, they’ve gone an abysmal 15-22 since. Their record now stands at 25-26, good for 11th in the West, after what’s been an insane stretch from Damian Lillard. Dame has averaged 34.9 points, 7.8 assists, and 4.1 rebounds in the 16 games since January 1st, including four 40-point performances, one 50-piece, and the most efficient 60-point game in NBA history.

What’s become evident in the past few months is this team desperately needs a change— and fast. If the Blazers’ ship doesn’t correct itself soon, it’s more likely that they will steer themselves back to the lottery.

But who can help right the ship?

Option #1: OG

Two key things that have plagued the Blazers over the past six or seven years have been size and defense. This is a team that has ranked toward the bottom of the league in defense and has trotted out three-guard lineups the past couple of years. With Dame and Anfernee Simons being two of the least-impactful defenders in the league and Josh Hart being undersized at the SF position, trading for OG Anunoby helps patch up two issues.

Anunoby has leveled up his play to DPOY contender this year. He’s tied for the league lead in steals and only allows 44% from the field while regularly guarding the opposition’s best player.

A guy like OG will not be easy to trade for, especially with the Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray trades setting a new standard, but no player is untradeable. Add in that there have been whispers of unhappiness from certain players in Toronto’s camp and OG may be able to be had.

The Trades:

Why would the Raptors do either?

The Raptors are in a dilemma. Not only have there been reports that OG is unhappy there, but they have also been doing poorly this year. With a 23-30 record, this team needs a shakeup to try and return to contention. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri will not be interested in the picks, but rather in the players included in the trade.

In trade No. 1, acquiring a guy like Josh Hart, a locker-room guy who can do almost anything you ask him to, could be essential for the development of Scottie Barnes. They also acquire get a decent bench point-forward in Justise Winslow, and a project guard in Keon Johnson to develop. Since one of the main problems for this Raptors team is guard play, acquiring three functional guards is a good trade-up. Not to mention the haul of picks that could be used in future trades.

In trade No. 2, the Raptors obviously acquire their lead guard of the future in Simons. It allows them to move away from Fred VanVleet and start a youth renaissance with Simons, Barnes and Gary Trent Jr., with Pascal Siakam to lead them.

How do the Blazers benefit?

Without re-hashing everything said previously, the Blazers could benefit greatly from a mere change in size and defensive ability. OG provides upgrades to both of those things.

Trade No. 2 is actually far more attractive for the Blazers, although they would probably be giving up the best player in the deal. Gaining two 6’8″-plus players to this small team is such an upgrade that it doesn’t really matter. It also allows Hart to move to his more natural shooting guard position and gives the starting lineup its first true forward-pairing since Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless.

The bench center position also improves with Chris Boucher becoming the backup center, allowing Drew Eubanks to shift to a power-forward role.

This would be the ideal, all-in trade the Blazers have been looking for to balance both the frontcourt and the backcourt.

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Option #2: Jarred Vanderbilt

Jarred Vanderbilt has been a do-it-all guy for the Jazz this season. With averages of 8.5 points and 7.9 rebounds on 55 FG% and 34% 3PT%, Vanderbilt was a big reason for their early success.

Size, rebounding and defense continue to be a theme for what the Blazers need, and Vanderbilt provides all three of those things in a potential trade. What isn’t quite as clear is what the Jazz are asking in return for Vanderbilt. It has recently been reported that they would accept “the equivalent of a first-round pick” as a return, but it’s hard to know what the Jazz might value as a first-round pick.

The Trade

Why would the Jazz do it?

This trade gives the Jazz project players in Keon Johnson (who was a first round pick last year) and Greg Brown III, and more assets in second-round picks in this year’s draft. Danny Ainge is a shrewd negotiator so he may try to ask for more, but this trade gives the Jazz just about every asset they could ask for in what will almost certainly be a rebuild in the coming years.

How do the Blazers benefit?

The Blazers gain a valuable backup (or starter if Josh Hart is moved to the bench) with the size that they’ve lacked from the bench. The versatility he brings to the Blazers’ frontcourt with the ability to play each position and defend well against them would be heaven-sent for a team in the bottom third of the league in defense.

Now, don’t look at this trade thinking that it will be the catalyst for a playoff run or anything. Instead look at it as acquiring a necessary player for the planned contending roster down the line. You have to work around the edges sometimes and acquire as much talent as possible. Gaining a player who looks like they could be a key contributor to a contender for low-level rotation players should be seen as an absolute win.

Option #3: Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder hasn’t played at all for the Suns this season, as the team has agreed to try to find him a suitor for a trade, and the Blazers could be that team. Crowder is a pretty versatile player who can play in both forward spots, with averages of 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, hitting 34% of his threes last season.

The Trade

Why would the Suns do it?

The Suns really want to put this Crowder saga behind them. With new ownership coming into power before the trade deadline it’s not crazy to think they’ll make a move just to move him. This trade does that and then some, with the Suns landing the best player in the trade in Josh Hart. With that kind of return, it would be worth them giving up the pick and Damion Lee.

How do the Blazers benefit?

The Blazers truly benefit from this trade with slight salary-cap relief, an extra pick, and an extra body to throw out on the floor in case of injuries. Crowder is clearly not as good as Josh Hart, but with Hart’s contract expiring and the likelihood of his re-signing in doubt, the Blazers may be better off cutting him lose and gaining assets for him. Gaining another second-round pick would give them some more assets to trade (even keeping the Vanderbilt trade alive) and would allow them to let Crowder go in the offseason without feeling too bad about it.

Final Verdict

This team doesn’t have a ton of room to move, especially since most of their core players are unlikely to be traded soon. However, these few trades give the Blazers some new avenues to improve and make way for an even bigger trade down the line that could put them into contention. The time on Dame’s clock is ticking, and if the Blazers are serious about contending while he’s here, they’re going to have to make some magic happen real soon.

About Badi Cross

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