It is now February, and with the All-Star Weekend right around the corner, the trade deadline will soon follow suit as well.
The Blazers are currently sitting at 22-30 for 9th place in the Western Conference standings and were at 24-28 last season before winning 9 of their next 10 games to go on and finish at 44-38 for the 6th seed. With the season ending injury to Rudy Gay, the Kings chances of making the playoffs have diminished greatly, and the competition for the 8th seed has diminished as well. But if the Trail Blazers have any hope of making the playoffs this season, the defense needs to be shored up, as they currently allow 111.5 points per 100 possessions which is 26th in the league, and while most fans would lean to the defensive liabilities of Damian Lillard as the main problem, it is not necessarily the main issue that needs to be addressed.
What the Trail Blazers Need
Mason Plumlee is an excellent passing big man, but at times it has been shown that he and the interior defense are a major liability. Festus Ezeli was supposed to help with that paint protection role, but since he was ruled out for the season, the Blazers need to fill that void immediately. Improving the rim protection and interior defense are key priorities for Portland to fill at the trade deadline.
Realistic Trade Targets
Serge Ibaka, Orlando Magic
Mason Plumlee is still a key cog to the Blazers offense, and the one position which has been a revolving door all season long has been the power forward spot. Enter Serge Ibaka, who is on the last year of his deal from Oklahoma City Thunder and does not fit in with the future outlook of the Orlando Magic, who is looking to play their younger prospects more, such as Aaron Gordon, who has had an up and down season so far due to inconsistent playing time. The Magic would want young players and draft picks to make up for the loss of Ibaka since they gave up Victor Oladipo and Donatas Sabonis to the Thunder in the original deal. The asking price may be high, but if reasonable, the Blazers should be more than willing to pull the trigger on a deal.
Jusuf Nurkic, Denver Nuggets
With the breakout play of Nikola Jokic, Jusuf Nurkic has seen more DNP-CD’s than actual playing time, as they are a bad pair on the court statistically, and his future in Denver has been questionable ever since he lost the starting job. When he has received 20+ minutes per game, however, he has shown to be an excellent low-post player that roams the paint. He is not exactly the greatest defensive center in the league, but stats wise, he is better than Mason Plumlee in terms of points allowed. With his lackluster play as of recent, a trade will almost certainly happen. The main questions are how much will the Nuggets want and how much are the Blazers willing to give up for a big man who has gone from a break2nd-yearyear player to a reclamation project.
Andrew Bogut, Dallas Mavericks
Andrew Bogut has shown little interest in remaining a Dallas Maverick after this season when his contract expires, and who could blame him when you look at how the year has gone so far for Dallas compared to preseason expectations. The Mavericks are currently one of the worst teams in the Western Conference and have also dealt with an excessive amount of injuries to its key players, including Bogut, who has been dealing with a nagging calf injury for most of the season. He does not contribute much on the offensive end anymore, but the two main reasons to acquire him would be for rebounding and paint protection. If Dallas is unwilling to part with Bogut via trade because of his high salary, a buyout may be on the horizon.
Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
Dario Saric, Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor. What do all three of these players have in common? They all can’t play together. The 76ers have a major logjam at power forward and center, and if you throw Ben Simmons into the mix, it’s truly a recipe for disaster. All season long, the odd man out has been Nerlens Noel, who has dealt with injury and inconsistent playing time for most of the season. Per 36 minutes, Noel is an excellent pickpocket and shot blocker, averaging 2 blocks and steals per game, and is also efficient on offense. Because of the Sixers current cap situation, almost any player could be given up for Noel, but the asking price may be high because he is a rookie, and Bryan Colangelo will most likely want a 1st round pick to go along with a player.
Regardless of any moves the Blazers might make, these are the main targets that they should be looking at, especially if they want to go beyond the success they had last season.