As trade rumors heat up, Neil Olshey and the Portland Trail Blazers should think twice before dealing their starting center.
Yes, Hassan Whiteside was meant to be, and likely will be, a one-year rental for the Portland Trail Blazers. And yes, his contract is ugly. But the Blazers need to wait patiently for the right deal when it comes to trading him. And if that deal never comes, so be it.
Whiteside is currently making $27,093,018 in the last year of his max contract extension, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. While it is usually a good idea for a team to trade expiring players that aren’t in their long term plans, Whiteside might be an exception. In order to trade Whiteside, the Blazers would have to take back anywhere from 75%-125% of that $27,093,018 in return ($20,319,763.50 – $33,866,272.50).
While Whiteside may have a reputation for being a lazy, empty stats player, he has actually been quite good for the Blazers lately. In the month of December, Whiteside is averaging 18.7 PPG, 12.7 REB, 2.3 AST, and 3.1 BLK’s. On November 29th, Whiteside set a franchise record for blocks when he swatted 10 shots against the Bulls. While his early season play may have fit right in with the reputation he had developed over the last few seasons, Whiteside has been far from lazy lately, and has made a significant contribution to the Blazers’ recent wins.
Names like Kevin Love and Danilo Gallinari have been thrown around a lot in Blazers trade rumors recently, and both have contracts that fall within that range. In fact, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, Love actually prefers to be traded to his home-town Trail Blazers.
While both of these deals may look like good on paper, neither of them make a lot of sense. Both Love and Gallinari play the majority of their minutes at power forward, and neither are great defenders. Both are 31 years old and have a hard time staying healthy. For a Blazers team that struggles heavily on the defensive end, trading their best rim protector for a minus defender who can’t stay healthy may not be the most logical move going forward.
As for Gallinari, most of the issues have to do with fit. Unlike Love, Gallinari has an expiring contract that the Blazers could move on from if things didn’t work out. However, trading Whiteside would leave the Blazers with Skal Labissiere as the only center on their roster, and would force Carmelo Anthony to move to small forward. While Anthony may have been able to play small forward earlier in his career, he is much too slow to do so now.
While a healthy lineup of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Danilo Gallinari, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic would probably make a lot of noise in the playoffs, there is no guarantee that they would even be able to make it there. Although the team looks like they are starting to gel and are currently closing in on the 8-seed Kings, they would be making things really hard on themselves by shaking up their lineup and leaving a gaping hole at center. Assuming that those five players listed above would all be healthy come playoff time is also a lot to ask.
For the Blazers to make a move for Gallinari, they’d have to feel really confident in three things: 1. Jusuf Nurkic’s recovery 2. Their chances of making the playoffs this year 3. Their chances of re-signing Gallinari over the summer. If they had assurance that Gallinari would stick around for a few years on a decent contract, the deal might actually be a really smart one. However, that is just not something that players give teams in the modern NBA.
As for Love, things just don’t make sense long-term for the Blazers. While it would be a cool story for Love to come back to play for his home-town team, the Blazers would be taking a significant risk by dealing for him. Just like with Gallinari, trading for Love would force Carmelo Anthony to play small forward, and would leave the Blazers with only one center left on their roster. It would lock the team into three more years of Love (at around $30 million per year), and would hurt the development of Zach Collins, who may even be better than Love by the time next season comes around.
Having just re-signed Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to max-contract extensions, taking on another max player would leave the Blazers with very little flexibility moving forward. With Zach Collins and Anfernee Simons‘ rookie contract extensions just around the corner, this would be an extremely risky decision by the Blazers. And as the Raptors showed us in last year’s finals, having depth is as important as it’s ever been in the NBA, and the Blazers simply do not have that right now. In fact, they currently rank 27th in bench points per game at 28.0, according to NBA.com/Stats.
All in all, if the Blazers are going to deal Hassan Whiteside, they need to do it for someone who fits in with their long-term plans. They must make a move for the next few years, not for this year. If that perfect move never comes up for Neil Olshey and the Trail Blazers front office, they should simply let Hassan Whiteside play out his season in Portland and use the cap space generated by Whiteside and Kent Bazemore’s expiring contracts to bolster their bench for next season.