THE worst place for a pro sports team to be is stuck in the middle. On the edge of postseason contention and not far enough down the draft order to snag reasonable talent, franchises can find themselves in limbo for years with no reprieve in sight. Luckily, the Portland Trailblazers are no such team, however, they aren’t poised that far ahead of the curve. A trade for Kevin Love could help turn them into a serious contender rather than see them make up the numbers out West yet again…
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FRESH off an impressive win against Utah the Blazers find themselves with the 4th best record out West at 32-20, so they are far from floundering. However, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can only take them so far with the duo failing to win a playoff game in the past two seasons. Good for 20+ PPG each night, Portland has done a fine job of fitting able bodies around their stars, including center Jusuf Nurkic who has proven to be a valuable contributor. Through their forward rotation however there are a bunch of questions marks, with Al-Farouq Aminu, Jake Layman, Maurice Harkless and Myers Leonard being asked to do most of the heavy lifting.
NO offense to that quartet but an upgrade could prove to be the difference at the business end of the season. While the Blazers have averaged near 48 wins a season over the last five years, they have just two playoff series wins, going 11-24 in the postseason since 2013-14. A player of Kevin Love’s ilk could help then go on a deeper run and seriously challenge some of the top teams out West.
WHILE it comes at a risk given Kevin Love’s injury history and his expensive contract, it’s one that the Blazers should take. With CJ and Dame in their primes, Portland can’t afford to let many more seasons go to waste. With the pair on the books for another two seasons, not including this one, there is a realistic chance that one or both of them could flee forcing the Trailblazers into an ugly situation.
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FOR Cleveland to part ways with their scoring sensation at PF first-round picks will be what they covet. Portland, fortunately, owns almost all of their future picks, with the exception of a few second rounders. Kevin Love’s lofty $24 million dollar contract means the Blazers have to find a few pieces to make up the salaries match. Taking out their three best guys in Lillard, McCollum and Nurkic, here are a few candidates that could be included in the deal.
Evan Turner – 2yrs/$36.5mil
Myers Leonard – 2yrs/$21.8mil
Maurice Harkless – 2yrs/$21.3mil
Al-Farouq Aminu – 1yr/$6.96mil
THERE are a few cheaper, younger assets like Zach Collins, Caleb Swanigan or Anfernee Simmons who might be added to sweeten the deal, but as I’ve already mentioned, picks is what the Cavs will be chasing. If they ask for multiple first round picks then the Blazers can politely hang up on Koby Altman, but a young player, a first rounder and some contract filling could push a deal through. Something that looks like this could be a fair trade for both sides on paper.
Portland receives: Kevin Love, David Nwaba
Cleveland receives: Evan Turner, Myers Leonard, Anfernee Simmons, 2020 1st round pick, 2022 2nd round pick
COMMITTING over $80 million to three players for multiple years (Love, Lillard, McCollum) isn’t an ideal scenario, but given the hefty contracts circulating in the league, it’s the price of doing business in the current NBA. Would you rather pay $17 million to Evan Turner and $7 million to Al-Farouq Aminu or give all those dollars to Kevin Love, potentially enticing a veteran to join a squad with title aspirations on a minimum deal? I know which one I’d rather.
JUSUF Nurkic is on a very affordable deal, they have a handful of players coming off the books this season and there are still young rookies who can have an impact on their cheap deals in the coming seasons. Things aren’t as dire as they may seem. You could haggle over which pieces need to be included in such a deal, but the long and the short of it Love’s addition would be a great get for Portland. Defensively is where you could argue the Blazers needs help, but adding a third scoring threat like Love opens up a bunch of options for Portland.
ROLLING out a group with Lillard, McCollum, Love and Nurkic is a great core to build around and trading for him this season allows them to perhaps take stock again this offseason and plugs the necessary holes. This current team can’t win the NBA title, I know it, you know it, but with Kevin Love in tow and the addition of the right players, there’s no reason why they can’t contend for the next three or four seasons. It’s better than the alternative of being annually bounced in the first or second round of the playoffs.
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