I don’t really know what the tone of this should be. Am I excited that the Portland Trail Blazers just added one of the hottest scorers in the league and a player that I have liked since his college days at UCLA? Yes. Am I disappointed that we just lost one of the best young shooters in the league and one of my personal favorite players? Yes, I am.
First thoughts on the Portland Trail Blazers trade deadline
After a few hours of mulling everything over in my mind, I have landed somewhere in the middle, and I guess a lot of you have probably come to a similar conclusion.
After quickly working through the emotional highs and lows, it is time to look at what this means for the team in the short and long term.
This trade does two things in the short term, Norman Powell will play Gary Trent Jr’s minutes plus maybe one or two more, and at this point in both of their careers, Powell is just better.
Norman Powell Stats according to Basketball Reference: 42 games – 31 starts – 30 minutes p/g – 19.6 points p/g – 49.8% fg – 44% 3pt on 7.1 attempts – 86.5% free throw
Last 10 Games – 35 minutes p/g – 25.8 points p/g – 54% fg – 45% 3pt on 8.6 attempts
Gary Trent Jr. Stats: 41 games – 23 starts – 31 minutes p/g – 15.0 points p/g – 41.4% fg – 39.7% on 7.4 attempts – 86.5% free throw
It is almost eerie how similar the stats are – minutes p/g, 3-point shot attempts, free throw percentage. Norman Powell is just better across the board, and the last couple of weeks, he has been on an absolute tear.
The other thing this trade does is free up a little bit of the rotation from the minutes that Rodney Hood has been playing. As I have previously stated, I am a Hood fan and what he did for the team two years ago was incredible; unfortunately, this year, he just hasn’t been that guy.
Rodney Hood Stats: Last 10 Games – 19 minutes p/g – 4.0 points p/g – 34% FG – 26% 3pt
As cynical as I can be about players that I like, it is pretty hard to benefit from the doubt to Hood. This move allows for Stotts to reallocate those minutes around where he sees fit. Maybe we will see more Nassir Little? Maybe Simons makes his way back into the rotation? I don’t have the answer here, but I know whoever it is will probably be more productive in those minutes.
Defensively this team is bad. This trade doesn’t change that at all. If anything, we are worse on that end of the floor at this point. Guess what? This team was never going to be able to hang their hat on defense. I don’t want to hear that “Aaron Gordon would have fixed all of our defensive problems.” He wouldn’t have. Neil Olshey is just doubling down that this team is going to have to outscore everyone.
Powell makes an already elite offense even better. He brings in some playoff experience after a couple of great Toronto runs. And I know this phrase is used too much, but he is a guy who always plays really hard. We are a better team for the remainder of this season.
This is where my mind raced a little bit. Norman Powell is almost 28 and has a player option for next year that I can go ahead and report right now, barring devastating injury, he is going to decline. So, we have a rental for the remainder of the season, and someone I would be shocked if we can re-sign.
Gary Trent Jr. just turned 22 and would have been a restricted free agent after this season. For those who don’t totally understand restricted free agency, it just means that any contract he would’ve been offered from another team the Blazers would have had the opportunity to match.
This tells me that the organization was unwilling to pay what is probably going to be at least $15 million annually for Gary Trent. I get it, Dame and CJ are the organization. I am not sure the three of those guys playing major minutes together and eating up well over half your salary cap is going to give you the flexibility to craft a championship-level roster.
Regardless of this, Gary Trent is valuable right now, and are we sure a couple of months of Norman Powell is the best we could have gotten for him?
Am I expected to believe that Olshey called every team and said, “Hey x GM, Gary Trent is available, make me an offer?” And the best offer that came back was a couple of months of Norman Powell?
If this was not the process he went through, then he is not doing his job. If you decide you aren’t going to pay Gary Trent, fine, but I would’ve wanted to get a piece that will be a part of the team’s future beyond just this season.
When this move is further analyzed, does this win-now move make the Blazers legitimate championship contenders this season? Time will tell, but I kindly doubt it.
The Lakers are still there, and if LeBron and Davis are healthy, they are still the champs.
The Clippers got a real point guard in Rondo and are a tough matchup for Portland.
The Nuggets clearly got better, and they were already a team that made the conference finals.
The Suns are quietly the two seed and would be a handful in a seven-game series.
Utah has been the best team in the league all year, and that matters.
Dallas has Luka Doncic, and he has proven multiple times that he can win games by himself.
How many of those series would Portland be favored against? One? Maybe two if we are generous?
Damian Lillard is amazing. CJ McCollum is incredible. This team is outstanding. Do I believe they can beat any of those teams in a series? Yes, I really do. But that isn’t the question we should be asking. The only question that matters is can they beat 3 of those teams in a row? TBD
I repeat it, are we better this season? I can confidently say Yes. Did we lose a piece that could have improved the future of this team? I believe Yes. Will this article look really dumb when Norman Powell is holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy? I hope so.