The Portland Trail Blazers were expected to be one of the most active teams in the trade market this season. So far, along with the rest of the league, Interim General Manager Joe Cronin has remained quiet. After it was reported that Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum will not be traded, fans started to lose hope on seeing a renewed core around Damian Lillard. Now, though, the New Orleans Pelicans have started to reignite trade talks around CJ.
According to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, New Orleans’s front office views McCollum as the perfect third-wheel for their young tandem consisting of Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. CJ’s abilities to create for himself and others off-of-the-dribble would bring a nice balance to the Pelicans slasher-based frontcourt.
McCollum’s value as a small, aging, scoring-minded guard has taken a hit. So while he might not be the ideal piece to bring in next to Ingram and Zion, his price tag might make him a more realistic target if the Pelicans intend to restructure their core around their young stars.
The Portland Trail Blazers could deal CJ McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans
While New Orleans wouldn’t be able to craft a package similar to the Ben Simmons or Jaylen Brown trades that Trail Blazers fans have drooled over —without trading BI at least — they do have a variety of useful assets that Portland would love to get back in a trade.
Jonas Valanciunas is a stout post-defender and has blossomed his offensive game while in New Orleans. He’s shooting a career-high 42 percent from deep on over two attempts per game. His ability to space the floor without sacrificing interior size is certainly an attractive skill that the Trail Blazers would love to pair with Damian Lillard for pick-and-pops.
Josh Hart offers the Trail Blazers an affordable, malleable 3-and-D wing that can guard multiple positions. While Portland has been looking for a star to fill their three-slot for years, perhaps adding a reliable shooter and above-average defender in between Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic will be enough.
Jaxson Hayes is a rangy, springy big, built in the mold of a traditional run-and-jump center. He’s struggled to find his niche in the NBA in New Orleans, but perhaps a change of scenery will awaken the potential still in the 21-year-old. Bringing in a lob threat to run pick-and-rolls for Dame and Anfernee Simons certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Herb Jones has transcended his label as an NBA-nerd cult favorite and is quickly becoming one of the most feared defensive forces in the league. It’d be splendid if Cronin could sweet-talk Pelicans Executive David Griffin to include the former Alabama Crimson Tide forward in the deal, but it’s unlikely at this point.
New Orleans also holds a cache of future draft picks from their Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday trades. Portland should try to finesse some of that draft capital in return for CJ if a deal comes to fruition.
Of course, regardless of the Pelicans’ interest in CJ, a deal will only be possible if Cronin is willing to deal him. With the conflicting reports that have come out from the Blazers media, it’ll be a long 10 days before we hit the trade deadline.