At the trade deadline, the Portland Trail Blazers elected to make just the one move. They traded exciting young wing Gary Trent Jr, and role-playing wing Rodney Hood, to the Toronto Raptors for wing Norman Powell.
The trade at the time was criticized by some media, and some fans. Trent was very popular in Portland because of his tough defense and shooting ability. But with Hood not bringing the same impact post his injury last year, and the fact that Trent was going to get sizeable offers in free agency this off-season, the Blazers decided to kill two birds with one stone, bringing in Powell for these two.
Trent may get bigger offers than Powell in restricted free agency because of his age and great positional size. This thinking was definitely part of why the Blazers moved him. Because Trent is coming off his rookie deal in free agency, he is a restricted free agent. This means that any team with cap space can make an offer for Trent, and then the Blazers would have match rights.
Powell has a player option for 2021/22, but he will almost certainly opt out as his market in free agency is a little clearer. There’s also a chance his agent could have pre-negotiated a deal with the Blazers before the trade. This means that Powell is a known cost, while Trent’s potential cost was unknown.
The Blazers have big decisions to make on their personnel. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both have new deals that will kick in at the start of the 2021/22 season. Because these two salaries start at a combined $70 million, the front office has tough calls to make for the rest of the roster.
With Powell commanding at least $15 million a year, and Anfernee Simons needing an extension that would likely be around $5 million a year, that would mean those guards would command $90 million of the payroll. The cap is $112 million, and $90 million of it would be spent on two positions.
There is still no long-term solution at small forward on this team. Nassir Little has taken big steps forward this season on both ends, but is he a playoff-ready forward in the next two years?
Portland Trail Blazers: Was Powell brought in to replace CJ McCollum?
The ” trade CJ ” narrative has been one that I’ve never been a massive fan of, but by locking themselves into Norman Powell, does this mean that it could be on the cards?
As a shooter who can create his own shot at elite levels, CJ is a rare commodity. He could complement many NBA teams with his elite shooting and shot creation. He is just 29, and after this year, he will have three years left on his deal, all of which he will still be in his prime.
This Blazers team hasn’t been healthy enough this season to truly see if they can compete at the highest levels, but this year may be the last time we see this core together. I don’t know if Neil Olshey wants to trade CJ in the off-season, but if there is a first-round exit with this current iteration of the team, it could be on the cards.
It’s difficult to know what the return would be, but because CJ earns around the $30 million mark, any forward such as Tobias Harris or Khris Middleton could come back in a trade dependent on which other assets were sent out.
Though Powell isn’t as good a player as McCollum, his fit is still great with Lillard, and he will earn $10 million less even if he gets a $20 million a year extension. McCollum’s money could be reinvested in a forward, and then the Blazers would likely be better defensively, with Powell providing an upgrade on that end with his strength and big six-foot-eleven wingspan.
The rest of this season and then the playoffs will be key. A first-round exit may see significant change otherwise.