All is mostly quiet in the rumor mill regarding the Portland Trail Blazers with Thursday’s noon NBA trade deadline looming.
The Blazers are actively searching to make upgrades, but the franchise isn’t firmly being connected to many players reportedly available on the open market.
Still, players on the Blazers are on red alert regarding their futures, which is common around the league at this point in the season. Damian Lillard said following the Blazers’ 127-108 loss Monday night to the Milwaukee Bucks that the trade deadline is hanging over everybody’s head.
“I think there are a lot of players that are looking around like, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to get thrown in a deal. I might be on a different team,’” Lillard said. “So, I’m sure it’s hard to be fully invested and fully focused and have your energy on trying to win in every moment of the game.”
Prior to the Bucks game, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups sidestepped a question asking if he expected a trade to be made by the deadline. But the loss itself illustrated how badly this team needs to add size.
Brook Lopez, the Bucks’ 7-foot center, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 6-11 All-Star forward, ran amok on the Blazers and exposed their lack of size, especially with Jusuf Nurkic out of the game with a calf strain.
There were reports last week that the Blazers had their eyes on Utah forward Jarred Vanderbilt. Over the weekend, there was speculation that Cleveland might be interested in trading for Josh Hart.
There have also been reports loosely linking the Blazers to Phoenix holdout forward Jae Crowder and Orlando 7-foot center Mo Bamba.
Also, the Dallas Mavericks are reportedly interested in trading 6-foot-10 forward/center Christian Wood and 7-0 center JaVale McGee. Both would add much-needed size to the Blazers’ roster, but Wood is a mediocre defender and McGee is 35 and not very productive.
Still, adding Wood would give the Blazers a big body who can score inside and is shooting 37.8% on threes while averaging 18.1 points and 8.4 rebounds.
Mavericks forward Christian Wood (35) blocks a shot by Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert (3) during first half action in the NBA game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Saturday, December 17, 2022. David Petkiewicz, cleveland.comDavid Petkiewicz, cleveland.com
Bamba, the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft, at the very least is a good shot-blocker. But he is playing just 17 minutes per game for the Magic because he is stuck behind Wendell Carter Jr. and Moritz Wagner.
Then again, maybe all the Blazers need is a big who can give them up to 17 quality minutes behind starter Jusuf Nurkic.
ANALYSIS: TIME TO TRADE LILLARD?
The approach of the trade deadline usually means that someone will say that the Blazers should trade Lillard. The latest such argument comes from Sam Quinn of CBSSports.com.
His reasoning is sound but unoriginal. We’ve heard and seen it all before: The Blazers should collect a boatload of assets for Lillard and start over while giving him a chance to win a title elsewhere.
But the bottom line is that Lillard wants to win in Portland and the Blazers don’t want to trade him.
A couple of weeks ago, Lillard became annoyed when asked about his patience level with the franchise’s building efforts. It’s been exactly one year since general manager Joe Cronin began his plan with Lillard fully onboard. He has said so many times that he wants to win in Portland that it’s become eye-roll worthy each time he is forced to say it again.
Will the Blazers fail? Maybe. But they’ve only just started under Cronin and coach Chauncey Billups, so for Lillard to become impatient now would indicate that he was never serious about seeing this plan through.
The Blazers cleared contracts (CJ McCollum and Norman Powell), tanked, drafted a potential star in Shaedon Sharpe, traded for Jerami Grant and signed Gary Payton II.
Damian Lillard (right) and Anfernee Simons before the Portland Trail Blazers face the Milwaukee Bucks in an NBA game at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.Sean Meagher/The Oregonian
That’s a good start, but clearly this team needs another major move or two and Cronin has said that such developments likely won’t be possible to complete until this summer.
Panicking and dumping Lillard now — especially doing so against his will as suggested by Quinn — would be a public relations disaster and an act of betrayal to Lillard that could ultimately make it more difficult for the Blazers to attract stars in the future.
After all, Grant is in Portland mainly because of Lillard. Trade Lillard and it’s likely Grant wouldn’t re-sign this summer.
The Blazers have one All-Star in town. They need to find another, not get rid of the one that they have and then be on the lookout for two.
That said, keep an eye out on what happens in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant. Kyrie Irving forcing his way out likely torched the Nets’ chances of contending this season unless they can pull off a deal for a star player by Thursday.
Durant, 34, could very well seek a trade as he did last summer. If so, the Blazers might be in position to pounce.
Such a move would likely involve Sharpe, Simons and plenty of draft capital.
But a Lillard-Durant pairing would make for a frightening combination for the rest of the NBA to combat.
Source Url :https://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/2023/02/trade-front-surrounding-trail-blazers-relatively-quiet-more-damian-lillard-trade-speculation-2023-nba-trade-deadline-watch-30.html
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