After a flurry of trades during the 2019 NBA Draft, the possibility of bringing Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers looks appealing.
In the wake of the Minnesota Timberwolves bold trade to move up to the No. 6 overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft, the Portland Trail Blazers could greatly benefit by making a daring move of their own.
With the sixth pick, the Timberwolves added the highly touted Texas Tech product Jarrett Culver to their ever-increasing depth of two-guards and wings. Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, Culver and Josh Okogie now fill out the rotation. Of all these players, Covington fits their retooling timeline the least, while simultaneously being their most valuable trade asset.
Shipping Covington out now while his value is highest could produce a valuable haul of picks and prospects in return. Ideally, these players could develop alongside Minnesota’s young and improving core while cornerstone Karl Anthony-Towns reaches his prime and lives up to that recently negotiated max extension.
Unlike most players on the Portland Trail Blazers trade radar, Covington is actually being paid a reasonable salary. Unfortunately for Portland, this means they won’t be able to negotiate the asking price down in exchange for taking big money off the long-term pay roll.
For starters, the Blazers could save some future picks and assets by flipping their draft day luck they had as a selling point to the Timberwolves. Newly acquired Nassir Little was projected as a top-15 player, some even had him in the upper half of the lottery.
For this trade to work, it would have to be agreed upon before this year’s crop of rookies officially sign the dotted line on their contracts. That moment will be sometime during the first week of July, before free agency kicks off on July 6. If the deal isn’t completed before then, Portland would not be eligible to trade Little until July 30 at the earliest, due to the NBA’s clause that protects newly signed players.
This trade would net the Blazers essentially evolved form of Little that’s ready to compete for a championship next year, serving as the defensive anchor at the wing. Minnesota would be happy to move Covington out for a younger version on cheap team control with his future still ahead of him.
Alternatively, if the Timberwolves wanted to clear out their log jam at the wing due to Wiggins’ albatross contract while simultaneously clearing cap space, they could explore an option similar to this.
Absorbing Gorgui Dieng’s contract and losing future draft picks may not be ideal, but it is the easiest route for the Blazers to take if they wish to retain the young core of Little, Anfernee Simons and Zach Collins.
This trade allows Portland to add the perfect wing to complement Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, while also serving as an excellent mentor to help flesh out Little’s very raw game. Minnesota would be thrilled to unload Dieng’s contract and add to their war chest of picks. As seen in this year’s draft, having multiple picks to expend can be very valuable when it comes to maneuvering around the draft board to get the guy you want.
While losing the ability to make a big splash in 2020 free agency is rather unfortunate, the Blazers likely weren’t going to have enough money to do so in the first place. Even with only the core seven of Lillard, McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Simons, Little, Collins and Gary Trent Jr on the roster, Portland would still be short of $30 million dollars in cap space and the chance to offer a max contract.
Besides, Covington would likely be better than any free agent the Blazers could realistically add in the first place. His Defensive Player of the Year potential coupled with a dependable 37.8 percent shooting from deep is exactly what Portland has been missing and could be the key that unlocks the secret of the hallowed Larry O’Brien Trophy.
If the Portland Trail Blazers remain vigilant and ride their hot hand, one bold move can bring one of the fanbase’s most highly sought after players to Rip City.