Could the Portland Trail Blazers Trade Mo Williams?

Dec 31, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Portland Trail Blazers point guard Mo Williams (25) handles the ball while defended by Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Derek Fisher (6) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 

Backup point guard Mo Williams has been the driving pinion on the Trail Blazers bench this season. His time-tested ability to create his own shot allows Portland to rest Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews in alternating fashion without the offense stumbling in their absence. But there’s always room for trouble in River City.

Mo Williams’ 2 year $5.4M contract includes a player option at the end of this season and he intends to opt out. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s leaving Portland. In fact, he has stated that he would like to work something out with the Trail Blazers this summer in order to stay. However; it does mean that he’d like a few more dollars in his pocket.

This news comes on the heels of CJ McCollum’s debut with the Trail Blazers. Portland drafted the rookie guard with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and, after recovering from a broken foot, he is now healthy enough to compete for minutes in the role Mo Williams has hitherto filled. It doesn’t make sense for the Trail Blazers to re-up Williams’ contract and keep both players.

Jan 8, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum (3) reacts after making a basket against the Orlando Magic at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 8, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum (3) reacts after making a basket against the Orlando Magic at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

But losing Mo Williams may not be an easy storm to weather. There is no guarantee that McCollum can match Williams’ 9.4 points & 4.9 assists per game production, plus intangibles this year. Portland is sneakily dependent on Williams’ scoring. They have a 14-1 record when he reaches double-digit points, and 13-8 record when he doesn’t. The offense needs his numbers.

Not to mention his playoff experience. The 11-year veteran has helped set Portland on a post-season path that requires know-how at the destination. Would the Trail Blazers be comfortable letting Damian Lillard (sophomore) and CJ McCollum (rookie) run amok in their first ever playoff series with only 34 year old player-coach presence Earl Watson as a safety net?

Perhaps. As often happens, it boils down to present vs. future. If Portland sees CJ McCollum as the future of this team, they may opt to trade Mo Williams while they have the leverage to receive something in return. So what does Portland need? They have each position solidly filled and they are unlikely to trade other pieces with Williams to create space for an incoming player (though they could).

If the Trail Blazers attempt to move Mo Williams at the February trade deadline, they will ask primarily for draft picks. It’s a gamble on the present to stabilize the future. General Manager Neil Olshey constructed a fantastic roster this year, but at the cost of every remaining pick the Trail Blazers have in the near future. Portland’s outgoing draft picks look like this right now:

 

  • 2014 first round pick goes to Charlotte
    (via Damian Lillard trade, 1-24-2011)
  • 2014 second round pick goes to Denver
    (via Raymond Felton trade, 6-24-2011)
  • 2015 second round pick goes to Chicago
    (via Allen Crabbe trade, 6-27-2013 & Luol Deng trade, 1-7-2014)
  • 2016 second round pick goes to Chicago
    (via Allen Crabbe trade, 6-27-2013 & Luol Deng trade, 1-7-2014)
  • 2017 second round pick goes to Houston
    (via Thomas Robinson trade, 7-10-2013)
  • 2018 second round pick goes to Sacramento[1]
    (via Robin Lopez trade, 7-10-2013)

 

Draft picks are so valuable because they can be cashed in as either new players or trade chips for current ones. Without picks, the Trail Blazers are mostly powerless to make necessary changes. They would have to rely on free agency or selling off their desirable players in order to adjust to incoming adversity. Mo Williams is Portland’s most coveted trade piece that they could survive clearing (thanks to CJ McCollum).

With a cheap expiring contract, the main teams that would have interest in Williams are other hopeful contenders. Most likely the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. Each is in need of an experienced combo-guard to give them an extra push in the playoffs, but after the Iguodala sign-and-trade last summer, the Warriors are in worse shape than the Trail Blazers in the draft pick department. OKC is the most probable trade partner.

Mar, 21, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti announces that Derek Fisher (not pictured) has signed contract to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

Mar, 21, 2012; Oklahoma City OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti announces that Derek Fisher (not pictured) has signed contract to play for the Oklahoma City Thunder before the game against the Los Angeles Clippers at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder possess the Mavericks’ first round pick (top-20 protected), the Sixers’ second round pick (protected 31-50 & 56-60), the Grizzlies’ 2017 second round pick (protected 31-35), and a slew of their own first and second rounders. They could put together a worth-while bundle pretty handily. The Trail Blazers sorely need the flexibility that the right deal would provide.

I would not be at all surprised to see Portland pursue a trade of this variety, but it does beg the question: what of their own playoff push? Would supplanting Williams with McCollum be enough of a downgrade to hurt their chances for success? Would it even be a downgrade? The Trail Blazers will have to weigh the possibilities before pulling any triggers.

Realistically, they probably aren’t bringing home the championship trophy this year. Why not make a trade that unlocks their future while remaining competitive in the present? The biggest reason to hold onto Mo Williams at this point would be to scrape together every asset they have for a championship run. Portland ought to fully invest in CJ McCollum and the future of the franchise.

Either way, one of them will have to go by or before next season. If Mo Williams remains a Trail Blazer past February, his probable departure as a free agent in the summer clears Portland’s backcourt log jam for them. However; Portland should move him soon, while they have trade leverage and know what they can get in return for the leader of their bench brigade.

 

 

Topics: Cj Mccollum, Mo Williams, Mo Williams Trade, Nba Trade Rumors, Portland Trail Blazers

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  • Antonio Jordan

    The Thunder could use him until Westbrook gets back.

  • Luke Ward

    mcollum had one game … and second round draft picks are so worthless its not even funny…name the last good second round pick?

    • Josiah

      Paul Millsap #47, Marc Gasol #48, Nickola Pekovic #31, Omer Asik #36, Danny Green #46, Lance Stephenson #40, Chandlar Parsons #38, Isiah Thomas #60(the last pick). Granted their are a lot of busts in the 2nd round but it would be unwise to write it off as “worthless”.