The Portland Trail Blazers have thus far been quiet during the NBA’s trade period, amidst links to many players in the league, including Serge Ibaka and Jahlil Okafor. Their general manager, Neil Olshey, and the rest of the front office will naturally have the final say on whether or not roster movement happens. However, unless a perfect opportunity presents itself, it may be in Portland’s best interest to sit tight and let the February 23rd trade deadline pass with the current roster intact. Here’s why the Blazers shouldn’t trade anyone.
Portland Trail Blazers Shouldn’t Trade Anyone
The Blazers currently lead a six-team race for the eighth playoff spot in the West. The seven teams ahead of them have been better overall this season. They are six games behind the Thunder, and only percentage points ahead of teams like the Nuggets and Kings. Those teams are competing just as hard for that elusive eighth spot, as well. While the Blazers are barely floating above these teams currently, their talent and chemistry is proving to be enough to solidify their playoff spot in due time.
Making a trade halfway through the season could perhaps disrupt the growing chemistry and trust developing in the team. While a trade may boost their win total, it may not do so enough to catch up to the West’s clear top seven. On the flip side, if the trade were to not work out, the Blazers would be left in a dangerous position of staving off the other playoff-hungry teams in the conference, with a new and unfamiliar roster.
Too Low a Ceiling
Simply put, the ceiling for this Blazers season is the eighth seed while the floor is likely 11th or 12th in the conference. The Blazers are simply too good a team to fall below that, into the slots where potential draft picks become more enticing. They haven’t done enough thus far in the season to raise their ceiling any higher. The seventh seed is possible but highly improbable. Portland is currently destined to reach this ceiling with their current roster, so even the right mid-season trade wouldn’t help very much. And the wrong trade could send the Blazers plummeting out of conference spots. Oddly enough, the precarious position they’re in has guaranteed them one spot in the entire conference, and from the way the first half of the season went, it may do them well to cling on to it.
Great Current Form
With their new starting lineup (Noah Vonleh and Evan Turner in, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu out), the Blazers are currently playing their best basketball of the season. The starting five have boasted an offensive rating of 106.7 with an elite and mind-boggling defensive rating of 85.9. The team isn’t known for its defense, but the manner in which the roster is beginning to gel is promising. The Blazers have won four of their last five games, the only loss coming to the Golden State Warriors by just two points. In the first half of that game, the Blazers found themselves facing a blowout, down by 21 points. The old Blazers may well have run out of steam right there, but the new lineup successfully went on a 20-2 run to end the half, pumping hope through the Moda Center’s boisterous lungs.
Role Players Thriving
More importantly, the role players on the team have begun to come into their own. The rise of Evan Turner has been promising, if not eye-opening. He continues to guard the opponent’s best perimeter player when on the floor, and while his stat lines have remained similar, the little things he does go a long way. He plays with a high level of intensity and can frustrate opponents with his style of defense.
Allen Crabbe has also found his shooting stroke recently, most notably torching the Grizzlies a few days ago with a 75 percent clip from deep (6-8.) With two fringe All-Star guards dominating the ball, Crabbe’s catch-and-shoot ability provides spacing, enabling Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to work with more of the floor.
Crabbe and Turner both have big long-term contracts, with each set to make in excess of $70 million over the next four years. It may be hard finding a team that would actually absorb these contracts, and also send back viable assets. And if you can’t trade ‘em, use ‘em. These two players aren’t living up to their price tag, but they’re sure getting closer than they were at the start of the season. Their contributions are helping the team win, and that’s all that should be expected from them.
End the Season Safely
By not rushing into any deals, the Blazers will likely achieve their goal of making the playoffs this season. It would give the front office a better idea of what kind of moves to make come the off-season, based on an entire season of watching the same team play. It’s a safe and smart bet to avoid the risk of investing in new assets mid-season. Once the season is over, further evaluation can take place. The front office can consider which players are and aren’t expendable, and whether it’s worth paying serious attention to the upcoming draft. Until then, it’s in the Blazers best interest to weather the stormy seas of the Western Conference and stay afloat on the tiny rock that is the eighth seed.