The Portland Trail Blazers have been a model of consistency on the court since the 2013-2014 NBA season. The team has averaged 48 wins over that span, but all they have been able to show for it has been conference semifinal losses and a trio of first-round exits. The third best team in the West a season ago is left on the outside looking in after an off-season that saw the likes of LeBron James go to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Phoenix Suns revamp their roster, and the Golden State Warriors reload for another title run.
The Blazers may be at a crossroads going into the 2018-2019 season. They can either blow it up and trade off their assets in hopes of a rebuild or they can look to bring another star to Portland. If Portland decides for the latter, they may have their sights set on a pair of stars out East.
Portland needs some Love
Kevin Love is set to begin an NBA season as the best player on his team for the first time since 2014. In his six seasons in Minnesota, he averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds per game. While his statistical performance on the court didn’t appear to take a big hit while in Cleveland, the eye test told a different story. Playing alongside James turned Love into an above average stretch four who specialized in threes, one of only many special aspects of his game.
Acquiring Love, with the duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, would give Portland one of the best trios in the NBA and could potentially secure another top-four finish in the West. A lineup of Love, Lillard, and McCollum could rival the Houston Rockets in terms of offensive firepower and perhaps give Portland a top three shooting lineup in the league. Adding a big man who is known as one of the league’s best rebounders to a team that was fourth in the league a season ago could give Portland an explosive offense.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 3, 2018
Acquiring Love would be as much about what Portland will gain as it will be what Cleveland is losing. To acquire Love and keep McCollum, they would likely have to make a combination of Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Al-Farouq Aminu, Caleb Swanigan and a 2019 first-round pick. Portland should expect to receive a package of Love and J.R. Smith to even out the salaries and make it worth-while for the Cavs.
The six-player swap works on paper, but the reality remains that to acquire Love it may take a star like McCollum. A straight up swap of the two works financially and gives Portland a new number-two to pair with Lillard. For Cleveland, they would land a 26-year-old star to play alongside Collin Sexton and speed up their rebuild.
Taking on some Magic
There may be no player in the NBA who has been in a worse situation on the court for his career than Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic. The former fourth overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is still only 22-years-old. Averaging nearly 18 points and 8 rebounds per game in his career earned him a 4-year $84 million contract this offseason. A contract that looks likely to be moved once eligible sometime during the upcoming season.
— NBA (@NBA) March 25, 2018
With the likes of Elfrid Payton being arguably the most complete point-guard Gordon has played with during his Magic tenure, saying Lillard is an improvement would be an understatement. Catching lobs from Lillard would be exciting if not for nothing else for Blazers fans. With Gordon still coming into his own, playing in Portland would allow him to play the four and the five in small-ball lineups, something sparingly seen in Orlando where he was often played out of position. His growth can see him become anything from a Draymond Green like menace on the court to even a poor man’s Blake Griffin.
Acquiring Gordon only makes sense if Portland believes one of their two stars need to be dealt, likely McCollum. A package of McCollum and Aminu for Gordon and Nikola Vucevic with a potential swap of 2019 first rounders should be enough.
The Magic would receive a much-needed scoring guard for a team crowded with big men. The biggest winner of this potential deal would be Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac who can see their games take a jump with the acquisition of McCollum.
If for nothing else, the Trail Blazers have choices. The one choice they don’t have is standing pat. Whether it happens prior to the season or before the trade deadline, it is likely the Blazers will be making calls for their next star sooner rather than later.