As the offseason comes closer into the front view mirror, it is time to take a look at pieces the Nets can add from the Blazers.
On paper, the Blazers are appealing because they have a surplus of draft picks, which the Nets need, and bloated salaries they may desire to dump in trades involving those picks.
At this point, the Blazers’ goal is to rebuild, and add different talent to surround Lillard and McCollum. While the Blazers beat the Nuggets out for the 8th seed, the trade of Mason Plumlee for a first and Jusuf Nurkic was made with the intent of rebuilding, not winning now. Plumlee was a starter, and Nurkic a banished afterthought and throw in to a deal.
Can the Nets get a deal done with the Blazers? Maybe. However, a word of caution is necessary: as I see it, the Blazers’ need for a trade is overstated.
The Blazers are approximately $31 million over the 2017-18 cap, and $17 million over the 2018-2019 cap. They NEED cheap, cost controlled contributors. The easiest way to acquire such players is with first round draft picks in a strong draft. Accordingly, why would the Blazers want to DUMP picks to offload contracts. They are much better served drafting talent, and growing that talent. If anything, the Blazers should use their pick cache to trade up, not OUT.
Some will think the reason for a trade is cap space. However, it bears repeating; the Blazers are $31 million over the cap next year, and $17 million over the following year. Accordingly, to add even a $10 million per year player — a bench player — the the Blazers would need to clear a WHOPPING $41 million in player salaries. That requires moving two of Crabbe, Leonard, and Turner, and a third big money piece for next to no return salary, which would likely require dumping two firsts at least. This all would occur for the chance to sign a piece like Jon Leuer, given what $10 million fetches on this market. That would be asinine for the Blazers to do.
So the Blazers should not dump contracts because they need to develop cheap young talent, not dump it, and because they are so far over the cap that salary dumps wouldn’t actually reap a basketball benefit on the free agent market. Those factors conspire to create a third reason dumps would be dumb for Portland — with there being no benefit to a salary dump, the Blazers are better off waiting a year to see if their big money pieces improve and add value. At a MINIMUM, each piece would be one year closer to expiring, and thus would have more market value. Why not table dealing Meyers Leonard 12 months, to see if he resuscitates value, or at least regains value as a contract closer to expiration? The same goes for Turner. And Crabbe to an extent, although he actually has value.
All told, I do not see the Blazers as a hotbed for money dumps simply because were I running them, I would not execute a dump.
However, stranger things have happened than a team with a bloated payroll dumping bad contracts to save money. Accordingly, if the Blazers do look to salary dump some of their big deals, like Crabbe, Turner, or Leonard, or to an extent Harkless or Aminu, and use their first rounders as carrots, then the Nets should be all over them, trying to get in on the action.
Beyond those types of moves, there are other options here, although Lillard and McCollum, and likely Nurkic, are going nowhere. The Blazers are not bringing back Festus Ezeli. He will be 28 next season, and while he was awful last year and underwent an experimental knee procedure, he has talent. He also has next to no market value at this point. With his upside — he was a significant component of the 67 and 73 win pre Durant Warriors — the Nets should explore a flier for his services. They say they have faith in their training staff — put your money where your mouth is here.
Beyond that however, the pickings start to slim. It’s too late for Ed Davis in all likelihood and he makes too much money next year unless he is assumed as dead money. Noah Vonleh is the prototype for what the Nets need, but the Blazers have no reason to trade him. If they did dump him to dump salary then Brooklyn should leap at that.
Tim Quarterman has good length for a point guard and his youth, and good per minute and D league stats, show he fits the Nets vision. But the Blazers have a team option. Similar comments apply to Pat Connaughton. Jake Layman and Shabazz Napier likely are not fits at this point.