A team as dysfunctional as the Bluth family, a coach who’s completely lost his locker room and an organization self-destructing faster than a Mission Impossible message: welcome to the 2012 version of the Portland Trail Blazers.
All indicators suggest that the only way to salvage this season is a major roster move and there still does remain a faint sliver of hope for the Rip City faithful in the form of a major trade. But in 2 days, Portland will be stuck with this band of misfit toys for the rest of the season, a decision that will only please the masochistic wing of the Blazers’ fan base.
With that said, here are the 10 trade possibilities that the Blazers can and should explore before the deadline.
Likelihood (Scale of 1-10, with 10 being most likely): 7
Pros: This is the hottest trade buzz coming out of the Blazers’ and Clippers’ camps and addresses a variety of needs for both teams. The Blazers receive a potential electric and dynamic point guard of the future in Eric Bledsoe. The Clippers pick up some cap room by getting rid of Ryan Gomes and his $4 million salary and receive another scoring weapon to further their chances at dethroning that other Los Angeles team when the playoffs arrive.
Cons: Bledsoe is potentially a riskier bet than a subprime mortgage. He could either be a poor man’s Russell Westbrook or the second coming of Sebastian Telfair. Taking on Gomes’ salary is also not an ideal situation for a team that clearly needs to make moves this summer. Also, you still have to find something to do with He-Who-Is-Still-Getting-Into-Game-Shape.
Pros: Portland receives one of the top-10 point guards of all time, completely energizing the team and fan base. Nash instantly pushes the Blazers into win-now mode and makes them a serious threat in the West. Phoenix might lose their cunning Canuck and get nothing in return once the season is over. This way the Suns add a fantastic young player in Batum to their roster, a point guard that perhaps just needs a change of scenery and new offensive system to reclaim his former glory and a future pick to assist them with their ongoing rebuilding efforts.
Cons: Instead of this being a blockbuster trade, this move is more like a Blockbuster rental for the Blazers. Nash is not only 38-years-old, but is a free agent at the end of the year giving him the option of going anywhere he wants once the season is over. Phoenix can probably get a much more valuable asset than what the Blazers can currently offer and may be able to convince Nash to resign with the team.
Pros: The Blazers get a young, reliable and relatively cheap starting point guard that will compliment the nucleus of Aldridge, Batum and Matthews. The Timberwolves get the potential missing piece they need to make the playoffs in Crawford and make an already potent offense that much better.
Cons: The Blazers only marginally improve with this trade and would still have a toxic situation with Felton coming off the bench. For the Timberwolves, losing Ricky Rubio for the rest of the season to an ACL tear likely negates the value of this trade. Nolan Smith would have to play major minutes for the Wolves, all but eliminating Minnesota from playoff contention this year.
- Portland gives Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford and Nicolas Batum to Boston for Rajon Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal
Pros: Just like the Nash trade, Portland picks up a superstar floor general that completely changes the apathetic cloud hovering over the team and provides the Blazers with their own Lob-City duo with Aldridge and Rondo. Boston gets 3 players that decrease the geriatric age average of the team and sheds Jermaine O’Neal’s horribly bloated contract.
Cons: Portland not only has to give up Batum, an obvious building block for the future, but would also have little room to make moves this summer with the salary commitments to Rondo and O’Neal. The Celtics trade away their best player and are left with a mishmash of grizzled has-beens and unproven role players.
Pros: Portland slightly improves at point guard and only gives up a player that clearly does not fit McMillan’s system. Charlotte gets a player that people have actually heard of, Augustin’s exit allows Kemba Walker to become the franchise point guard and the Bobcats take one step closer to turning around a franchise only a mother could love.
Cons: For Portland, all the same cons as the Ridnour trade. I don’t see any cons for the Bobcats.
Pros: Portland addresses the chemistry issues between Felton and the rest of the team and gets a comparable point guard who has proven to be an effective player in the past. Atlanta gains a solid backup point for Jeff Teague for slightly less money than Hinrich.
Cons: Kirk Hinrich solves the Blazers’ problems in the same way that Randy Moss solves the 49ers’ wide receiver issues. There are few cons for Atlanta.
Pros: Portland receives two young, intriguing players to build with for the future or two solid trade pieces to use as bargaining chips in case of a major overhaul next year. With Crawford, Indiana gets a veteran presence for a young team about to experience just its second playoff appearance in the last six years and a possible steal in Elliot Williams, who has recently displayed his exceptional potential before his shoulder injury.
Cons: Both Price and Hill do little to improve the Blazers this season and if Elliot Williams pans out, Portland would be hammered for repeating the Jermaine O’Neal fiasco and again giving Indiana a young player just about to hit his prime. The Pacers are playing great basketball and currently sit in the 5 spot in the East; after a long rebuilding process why mess with what’s working?
- Portland gives Raymond Felton, Nicolas Batum and Jamal Crawford to Milwaukee for Brandon Jennings and Stephen Jackson
Pros: Portland picks up a franchise point guard in Brandon Jennings, completely changing the offensive dynamic of the team and providing just enough of a spark to make the Blazers competitive in the playoffs. Milwaukee gets rid of the growing problem that is Stephen Jackson, who not only costs a fortune, but has also been adamant about his desire to leave Brew City. Milwaukee gains a solid nucleus to play alongside Andrew Bogut.
Cons: By taking on Jackson’s salary, Portland loses all hope of making significant moves in the offseason and gives up one of their two “untouchable” players with Batum. Milwaukee replaces a budding star with three current role players, two of whom they probably could not sign next season.
- Portland gives Jamal Crawford and Greg Oden to Minnesota, Minnesota gives Luke Ridnour, Anthony Tolliver and $3 million to Cleveland, Cleveland gives Portland Ramon Sessions and Daniel Gibson
Pros: Portland gets a definite point guard upgrade with Sessions and an acceptable replacement for Crawford with Gibson. Minnesota gets their coveted missing piece in Crawford and a pair of broken knees that may one day transform into an elite basketball player. Cleveland gets a nice replacement for Sessions and sheds more salary to make moves in the offseason.
Cons: Of all the trades, this is actually the fairest and most logical trade for all teams involved. The only con for Portland is finally acknowledging the complete waste of a No. 1 pick, but Blazer fans have been preparing for this harsh truth for years.
- Portland Does Nothing and Completely Rebuilds This Summer
Pros: If Portland stands pat and decides to enter full rebuilding mode, they will have $20-23 million in cap space for the 2012 free agent class. That’s the kind of money that could nab a superstar to play alongside Aldridge. Getting a Steve Nash or Deron Williams may seem like a long shot, but it becomes a lot more likely when you can offer them a max contract and the opportunity to play with one of the best power forwards in the league.
Cons: Portland fans will be forced to watch the current iteration of the Fail Blazers go through the motions the rest of the season. It’s clear there are still players that care about the organization, but it’s getting harder and harder to tell which players those are. To end on an optimistic note, once the trade deadline passes and the players realize they have to play with each other the rest of the season it’s possible they will realize how much talent exists on this team, begin responding to their coach and shock the world come playoff time.