Edit: The article mentions a sign-and-trade involving Norman Powell. Under CBA rules, Powell would have to agree to sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder for a maximum contract for 3-4 years. The trade mentioned would require the Portland Trail Blazers re-signing Powell this offseason and then trading him after December 15th, when the trade restriction for newly acquired free agents is lifted. All other aspects of the trade are valid.
The Portland Trail Blazers might be able take advantage of the trade that went down between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Boston Celtics.
The Thunder under general manager Sam Presti have created a habit of taking on unsavory contracts of high-level veterans such as Dennis Schroder, Chris Paul, and Al Horford in exchange for draft capital and then flipping acquired players for even more future assets.
While the Portland Trail Blazers would have absolutely no use for Kemba Walker, with four undersized guards already on the roster including an All-World point guard in Damian Lillard, this initial move could create a potential three-team trade opportunity for Portland to address a major need.
The Portland Trail Blazers should strike while the iron is hot
While the Blazers are not one of the teams on the short-list in dire need of Kemba’s services, they could offer assistance to a team who does. The Dallas Mavericks are in the midst of one of the most juicy franchise coups in recent history.
The Mavericks were rumored to be interested in Walker during his last expedition into NBA free agency in 2019. There’s sure to be further fallout from their internal turmoil and if they’re still interested in Kemba, the Portland Trail Blazers could take advantage of their desperation.
In addition to the players, OKC would also receive a 2023 first round pick from the Blazers. This move would also only clear if the Blazers signed Powell to a deal worth roughly $18 million/year and then traded him to the Thunder.
This three-team trade would benefit every team involved.
For the Mavericks, this trade allows them to land the player they need, despite not having the future assets necessary to swing the trade on their own. The Blazers would be providing the ammunition that the Thunder would be seeking in return for Walker. OKC would also be receiving yet another tradeable contract in Powell that they will assuredly flip for even more capital. And of course, the Blazers would be acquiring a key player who has voiced his frustrations with his current team without giving away any crucial pieces from their own war chest.
Would Kristaps Porzingis raise the Portland Trail Blazers ceiling?
While it’s tough shipping out Norm Powell after he gelled pretty well with the Blazers core, this trade lands Portland an All-Star caliber player while only giving up a high-level role player, a bench warmer, an unproven youngster, and a future, most likely late, first round pick.
It’s a little unsettling to think of trading away two of the Blazers few plus-defenders, but in reality it would most likely be a push for Portland’s defense at worst. Derrick Jones Jr. is a potentially lockdown defender, but his offense is unfortunately too much of a liability for him to be on the floor consistently without major improvements in his ball-handling and outside shooting.
Norman Powell on the other hand is a great defender at the guard position. That being said, the Blazers weren’t playing him at guard once CJ McCollum returned from injury. His moonlighting at small forward created another defensive mismatch for the Blazers to have to account for.
So while they would be giving up two good stoppers, is Kristaps Porzingis really a worse defender at the four than Powell is at the three? The other bonus is that this move would allow Portland to slide Robert Covington to the small forward slot where he would be most effective and can still switch onto the opposing power forward if the matchup dictates.
KP has been a disappointing defender since his meniscus tear in the 2020 playoffs. If he does recover and progress to his old shot-swatting self, however, the Blazers could actually upgrade on defense if they acquire the Latvian.
On offense, Porzingis has the potential to completely unlock the Blazers already devastating attack. He’s been dubbed the Unicorn for a reason. Even in a “down-year,” he averaged 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, shooting 47 percent from the field, 38 from deep, and 86 from the stripe.
While KP’s struggles with low-post scoring have been all too well-documented, his size and shooting still provides countless problems for opposing defenses.
Trading for KP would give Portland a true stretch-big, something they’ve never had, or at least utilized (see: Meyers Leonard) during the Dame era. This would give the Blazers the ability to play five-out without sacrificing any size, in the case that they need to stretch out an elite rim protector like Anthony Davis or Rudy Gobert.
While he’s on the floor with Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers would have two true bigs to test the opponents on the boards without sacrificing any spacing.
And if he actually develops a low-post game in Portland, watch out.
A starting line-up of Dame, CJ, RoCo, KP, and Nurk is simply too good to not inspire at least an inquisition from the Blazers brass.