The Portland Trail Blazers are an interesting team as the trade deadline approaches. They have committed a ton of money this offseason to their players and now they must make difficult decisions to contend and spend wisely. Ultimately, the Blazers will probably need to move a high-paid player to get this team back into contention.
A few weeks back, my colleague Russell Smith wrote a great piece about the Portland Trail Blazers trade targets and rumors found here. He nailed the trade the Blazers did make and outlined a few others, so please give his excellent work a read.
Today, we will examine what the Blazers have already done in the trade market and then, take a look at what players the Blazers could move before the February 23rd deadline and what is a realistic return for the Blazers in those deals. Let us get cracking.
What Already Happened
On February 12th, the Portland Trail Blazers traded away starting center Mason Plumlee. He was sent to the Denver Nugget along with a 2018 2nd round pick for a 2017 1st round pick and Jusuf Nurkic. Grabbing a first round pick for a player in Plumlee the team had no money to resign was a shrewd move by the Blazers.
I am interested to see Jusuf Nurkic on the Blazers the rest of the season. Nurkic is still just 22 years old and he has been a per-minute stud in limited minutes for his career. I am interested to see if he can earn more minutes on Portland and to see if he blossoms. Keep an eye on Nurkic the rest of the season.
Allen Crabbe - SG
I think the Portland Trail Blazers would love to move Allen Crabbe if they could. I wrote a lengthy article here about how the Blazers messed up that in matching that contract and I stand by it. Crabbe is paid like a franchise player but produces at the level of an average NBA player.
The Blazers are reportedly listening to offers on Allen Crabbe, so let us dive into his value a little more.
Allen Crabbe’s best skill is his three-point shooting. Crabbe is a career 40.1% shooter from downtown on 584 attempts. Clearly, he has proven to be a well above average three-point shooter.
He does not provide a ton of surplus value anywhere else on the court, unfortunately. I wish there were more great things to say about Mister Crabbe, but it is just not the reality.
Potential Landing Spots
The Blazers would love to be free of his hefty contract (4 years for $74.8 million) and I think they could take almost no return if they could put someone else on the hook for the years and dollars.
I do not expect Allen Crabbe to be traded as the contract will keep Crabbe in Portland for awhile longer.
Festus Ezeli - C
Festus Ezeli signed with the Blazers this offseason after a four-year run with the Golden State Warriors. Ezeli was an instrumental part in their championship run, but his troublesome knees caused him to only receive a two year and $15.1 million contract from Portland.
Fast forward to today and Ezeli has yet to log a minute on the court for the Blazers. Knee injuries have kept him out all season and it is possible he is not healthy enough to suit up at all this year.
At age 27, this is a very valuable player. Judging by the advanced metric win shares per 48, Ezeli was an above league average player each of the last two seasons with Golden State. He is a good defensive center who will not try to do too much and is content in any role.
The contract only has $1 million guaranteed for next season if he is cut by June 30, 2017, so the acquiring team could have a valuable center on their hands at an affordable price for next season or use him to meet the salary floor this year and cut him with a minimal cost for next season.
Potential Landing Spots
The Blazers want to move Festus Ezeli for financial relief and if they are desperate enough they will get the job done.
The Dallas Mavericks have been linked to acquiring Festus Ezeli.
Other teams that are below the salary floor and could have an interest in acquiring Ezeli at a minimal cost are the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
More than likely, the Blazers hold onto Ezeli through the deadline and as I mentioned when they signed him, it is not a bad idea. He is a valuable player on a great contract, so if he is healthy enough to play this season or next, the Blazers have a bargain on their hands.
Ed Davis - C
Ed Davis has seen his minutes and production slip in his second year in Portland. Davis is averaging just 17.2 minutes a game and producing just 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 points a night. Davis is underutilized on this Portland team flush with options.
Ed Davis is a valuable reserve big man on a team friendly deal for next season. Davis is due to make $6.35 million next season and should provide great value given the opportunity to play.
He is the prototypical reserve power forward or center who can rebound the ball and play good defense without commanding touches.
Potential Landing Spots
I could see a contending team making a play for Ed Davis. The team would have to be short a big man and have a role open for Ed Davis. Potential landing spots include the Toronto Raptors, Atlanta Hawks, LA Clippers, and Oklahoma City Thunder. Davis could fill a role on each team and they would probably be willing to part with a pick or cheap asset to get the deal done.
Evan Tuner - SG/SF
The Portland Trail Blazers committed 4 years and $70 million to Evan Turner this offseason. Most people believed the Blazers would regret the contract and low and behold just eight months in and already the Blazers are hoping to move Turner.
Unfortunately for Portland, this is a player I do not believe they can move. I do not see a team taking on Evan Turner’s contract given his production this season or in his career. Evan Turner is not a piece that will put a contender over the top and most contending teams could not afford to acquire him unless they gave away a high paid asset. Why give up an equally high paid player who is probably producing better? And the Blazers are hoping to save money, anyways. It appears to be black, red, and white for Mister Turner through this trade deadline.
Al-Farouq Aminu - SF/PF
The most likely deal for the Portland Trail Blazers lies in moving Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu is probably the most valuable asset they are willing to move given his contract and production. Let us look a little closer at his value.
Al-Farouq Aminu can play both forward positions and is a good defender. That versatility allows him to guard one through five in small ball lineups. Aminu has produced positive defensive box score plus/minus and defensive win shares in each of his seven NBA seasons. A versatile wing always has value in the NBA.
Add in that Aminu is under team control for the next two seasons after this year at just $14.28 million combined and teams should be biting. That gives the acquiring team a cost controlled versatile wing who can defend multiple positions, just show them where to sign.
Potential Landing Spots
I think the Blazers will ramp up their efforts to move Aminu and he will be wearing a new uniform come Thursday night. There are numerous teams that would be interested in his services, but two teams I could see pulling the trigger are the Indiana Pacers and the Washington Wizards. Stay tuned to see who grabs Al-Farouq Aminu before the deadline.
There you have it, my look at the Portland Trail Blazers trade rumors. This is a team in need of shedding some payroll after some poor offseason decisions. They are not contending and have the third highest salary cap in the NBA meaning some changes need to be made. Expect to see some deals before Thursday’s deadline, but do not expect to see the Blazers getting huge returns. If the team can get a few picks and save some cap space, they will have had a successful deadline.