According to the Athletic’s Shams Charania, the Portland Trail Blazers had interest in trading for Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks before ultimately pulling the trigger on the Larry Nance Jr. deal. While the Nance acquisition is an objectively good step forward for the team, this roster is far from a finished product if Portland means to compete for a championship.
Nance will fill a lot of the holes the Blazers had last season, specifically defense and athleticism, but his addition alone will not turn this team from a first-round exit into a serious title contender. His presence, along with new bench mates Cody Zeller, Tony Snell, and Ben McLemore, makes for a much deeper reserve unit, but the trade does not affect the starting unit at all.
While Portland’s starters last year finished as the fourth-most effective five-man group in the league, size and defense will still be pressing issues for the team, specifically in the playoffs.
Dillon Brooks could be the final piece in the Portland Trail Blazers puzzle
The most glaring need remaining for the Blazers is at small forward. Norman Powell moonlighted admirably there last season, despite standing at just 6’3. While Powell is a great guard defender, his limited stature prevents him from being able to aptly slow down the top forwards in the league.
The way the roster is constructed now, the hope is that the Blazers can overwhelm teams with their perimeter play and scoring. As we’ve learned time and time again in the playoffs though, defense usually trumps offense in the postseason.
Of course, the Blazers could go into the 2021-2022 playoffs and elect to turn either McCollum or Powell into a de facto sixth man and play Larry Nance Jr. more minutes with the starters. That would give Portland a more traditionally-sized lineup as well as an immensely strong defensive group in the frontcourt.
However, even this strategy is counterproductive, as it would just be confirmation that the Blazers can’t start one of their three top-paid players in the postseason.
Instead, the Blazers should continue to try to find a way to land Dillon Brooks, a true small forward that can offer most of what McCollum and Powell provide on offense, while supplying elite perimeter defense at the three slot.
I’ve outlined a three-team trade that could bring the former Oregon Duck star back to the Pacific Northwest. Of course, Portland’s 2022 first-round pick is no longer available, nor is Rajon Rondo, but with a little fenagling, the Blazers can still complete a similar trade to massively improve their team.
Acquiring Larry Nance Jr. gives Portland additional roster flexibility to make a more impactful trade—it’d be wise of General Manager Neil Olshey to use that extra wiggle room to nab Dillon Brooks.