Written by Casey Mabbott and Bryant Knox
The NBA draft is tonight, and with a perceived lack of depth (some calling it the shallowest draft pool in years), many teams are looking to the trade and free agency markets for impact players. If Portland is interested in improving its roster overnight, there are plenty of potential deals to be had if Neil Olshey is willing to pull the trigger and send one of his home-grown talents and/or future draft picks for a player that could help take this team from good to great very quickly.
There are sure to be many scenarios out there, but few that actually suit all sides involved, which is the main reason most deals don’t go through. Casey Mabbott (CM) and Bryant Knox (BK) teamed up to give you the most likely scenarios if Portland decides to makes a move, why Portland should consider them, and the potential pitfalls.
Trade Scenario #1: C.J. McCollum for Nerlens Noel
Why it makes sense: (CM) Philadelphia has a heavy mix of young big men but lacks shooters, while Portland is at the other end of the that spectrum so the two sides could help the other. Noel is a budding star on the defensive end, and would be the rim protector and defensive presence Portland needs desperately while McCollum would equate to instant offense for the 76ers and provide a talented shooter inside and outside. Losing McCollum would certainly hurt Portland in the short term, but the move would open up the starting shooting guard spot for Allen Crabbe and ensure more minutes off the bench for Moe Harkless, and the chance exists that either player could morph into a star if given enough time on the floor.
Why it won’t happen: (BK) If you believe in curses, you believe that the Rose Quarter is likely built on an old burial ground dedicated to big men who ultimately entered the afterlife with the official cause of death being injuries to lower extremities. For those who are superstitious, bringing on a big man with a history of knee injuries is insane. Losing a 20-points-per-game player who happens to be one-half of arguably the second-best backcourt in the NBA is out of the question. But curses and superstitions aside, this move goes against everything that the NBA has become. In a pace-and-space league, Noel gives you nothing while McCollum and his shooting are the lifeblood that keep you going. Noel has an undeniable defensive presence, which Portland badly needs. But at the cost of McCollum, the deal should be cut off before Olshey is give the chance to say yes.
Trade Scenario #2: C.J. McCollum for Jahlil Okafor
Why it makes sense: (BK) Although Okafor isn’t anywhere near becoming a stretch-4 / 5, he provides the offensive spark that Noel seemingly never will. He’s an old-school player in terms of scoring with his back to the basket, but that’s an area Portland lacks at this juncture. His porous defense is an issue, but again, he’s a young player who has already established a set of low-post moves that many of today’s bigs simply don’t have. If you’re going to give up a dynamic scorer, at least bringing on the former Duke Blue Devil gives you an offensive spark in return to complement, not repeat, the skill set of Damian Lillard.
Why it won’t happen: (CM) Sending an established offensive star for a guy who may one day be the center they need doesn’t add up for a Portland team trying to take two steps forward without taking any back. Okafor is decent offensive player but he would most likely slow down the offense and isn’t as of today set up to be the primary or secondary scoring option. That’s not to mention Okafor’s current deficiencies on defense. If you’re trading your second best player in order to get a defensive star who can also contribute on offense, Okafor just isn’t your guy.
Trade Scenario #3: Meyers Leonard and 2018 first round pick for Derrick Favors
Why it makes sense: (CM) This might be the best move for Portland this offseason aside from re-signing Crabbe and Harkless. Bringing in Favors keeps Mason Plumlee at center and provides a talented forward with a good all around game who is still young (24) but has 5 years of quality NBA experience. Utah is almost as loaded in the front court as Philadelphia but doesn’t have a job for everyone, this move would eliminate at least one mouth to feed. Favors is a double-double machine and the kind player down low that Portland could use to round out their offense. Portland would essentially give up nothing they need in exchange for a player that would allow Lillard and McCollum to continue to expend their energy on offense.
Why it won’t happen: (BK) What, you’re ready to give up on Meyers Leonard already? The truth is that Derrick Favors is an excellent two-way player. His total win shares are well above league average, per Basketball-Reference.com, and his splits in that category show effective on both sides of the court. But what you don’t get from Favors, at least not consistently, is the ability to spread the floor. According to NBA.com, Favors shot just 22.6 percent between 15 and 19 feet this past season, and while that number rose to 37.5 percent in the 20-24’ range, his attempts shrank to just eight in that category. Leonard struggled with injuries this past season, and getting him healthy is the first step toward a resurgence. He still has the potential to be a modern day, prototypical stretch-5. This is a good trade for Portland in the immediate future, but it comes at the sacrifice of the long-term shooter.
Trade Scenario #4: C.J. McCollum for Kevin Love
Why it makes sense:(BK) It’s easy to pick on Kevin Love. His numbers are down from his days in Minnesota, he’s clearly the third fiddle in Cleveland and he gets rejected by LeBron James on high-fives. But you know who else was easy to pick on in The King’s shadow? Chris Bosh. The same Chris Bosh who was a dominant big man in Toronto and saw his value rise again once James took his talents back to The Land. Love in Portland would not be the Love we’re seeing with the Cavs. He’d reestablish himself as an All-Star-caliber presence, and he’d spread the floor, which as we’ve discussed, is a must in today’s NBA. Giving up McCollum isn’t ideal, but it shouldn’t be an automatic deal-breaker. Picking up a defensive-minded 2 in free agency would help complement Lillard in the backcourt, and placing Love in the starting lineup would instantly replace the offense you’re missing from the shooting guard position.
Why it won’t happen: (CM) Love is a talented player, but he is too inconsistent for the price tag, doesn’t get up and down the court as well as other guys his size, and is a defensive liability – not ideal for Portland. It would be a huge risk for Portland from a chemistry and production standpoint but it would be a huge payday for Cleveland as McCollum would be a big upgrade over J.R. Smith and would fit right in with the Cavs’ all-ISO all the time offense. If Portland goes after a player on Cleveland not named LeBron or Kyrie, Tristan Thompson might be the better trade target but Love or Thompson for McCollum straight up would be a net loss for Portland.
Trade Scenario #5: Meyers Leonard for Greg Monroe
Why it makes sense: (CM) If Portland cannot get Favors, Monroe is the next best thing. Milwaukee seems to have buyer’s’ remorse after they lured Monroe away from Detroit (and Portland, for those keeping count) in the offseason, and are now shopping him. Monroe is another double-double machine, still young at age 26, and would absolutely fit in Portland. As the Bucks are looking to deal him, they may not require the extra incentive of a first rounder to get the deal done, and Portland absolutely has the room in the salary cap to cover the deal he signed last summer.
Why it won’t happen:(BK) Remember when Portland offered Greg Monroe a max contract last summer? And remember when he ultimately spurned the Blazers for Milwaukee? Rip City should be thanking the Bucks. The fact that Milwaukee so quickly regretted signing the Moose should be a sign that Portland needs to stay away. His defense proved to be a bigger burden than anyone expected, and that’s not something that’s likely to change. None of this, of course, is to say that Monroe is a useless player. His game can be effective on offense, and his contract isn’t going to look terrible two seasons from now when the cap has spiked twice. But this deal feels like a just for the sake of making a move. If offense is Monroe’s selling point, I’d rather see what Leonard can do over the next few seasons.