In the wake of Monday night’s nasty home loss in Moda Center to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the season-ending injury to Rodney Hood, a lot of people seem to think the Portland Trail Blazers need to make a move. A trade, a free-agent signing – SOMETHING. But here’s what I think they will do:
And I think that’s the right course of action, too.
This team has been ripped apart by injuries. Last season’s No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the NBA, the Trail Blazers are now last in the league in that department. From first to worst in a few months. And why not? This team opened the season with thoughts of eventually having five seven-footers on its roster.
There was Hassan Whiteside, Zach Collins, Skal Labissiere, Jusuf Nurkic and Pau Gasol. But Gasol never made it to the active roster and retired. Collins was sidelined with shoulder surgery and Nurkic still hasn’t made it back from his broken leg. Labissiere, who wasn’t even expected to play much this season, has become the backup center.
And the Trail Blazers have taken a big step back on the boards and in physicality. Offensive rebounding is critical to this team, because it’s often the only avenue for easy baskets. Portland doesn’t get a lot of fast-break baskets and now, without its big men, isn’t getting to the foul line enough,
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are having to carry a big load.
When Collins went down, Neil Olshey, the team’s president of basketball operations, went out and got Carmelo Anthony – a nice addition. Anthony was a player with a presence and the team didn’t have to give up anything to get him.
The Trail Blazers had championship aspirations this season, but it’s becoming increasingly obvious those dreams won’t be realized this season without the big men.
This franchise would be stupid to sacrifice any of its future to obtain a role player just to attempt to improve its position this season.
With Nurkic, Collins and Hood back in the fold next season, the Trail Blazers would be smart to keep their vision long range – next season should be a nice reset.
In the meantime, there is still a chance that a major trade could be made that would make sense for the future.
Hassan Whiteside’s expiring contract has always been expected to be a trade piece at some point. Names such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love have been mentioned and they would be difference-makers. But much more so next year than this, in all likelihood.
In regard to deals, it’s important to remember that NBA free agents cannot be traded for three months after they signed, or until after Dec. 15, whichever is later. And this season’s trade deadline is Feb. 6 and there is often a flurry of activity in the days leading up to the deadline as teams come to the realization that they probably won’t make the playoffs.
But Portland is not in a great space to make a deal with the Whiteside contract. The free-agent crop this summer is a weak one, with many of the top players expected to re-sign with their old teams. That would mean some teams would be reluctant to deal for a player who would provide cap space when there is not much to spend it on.
And there is a perception, too, that the Trail Blazers are desperate and other teams would want to squeeze more out of Portland in any deals.
So this is another situation when patience will be required. If the team doesn’t play any better than it did Sunday night against the Thunder, what would be the use of adding some marginal free agent who is sitting at home on his couch right now?
I would expect Nurkic to be back at some point this season, at least on a limited basis. Collins, I would assume, is more doubtful.
Better to allow the team’s younger players to grab that playing time, getting them ready for a bench role next season.