The Portland Trail Blazers have kicked off trade season in a major way, sending Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Los Angeles Clippers in return for Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson, Justise Winslow, and a future second-round draft pick.
This move puts Portland under the luxury tax line, a fit of financial finagling by Interim General Manager Joe Cronin to avoid the repeater tax. Basketball-wise, it puts a sense that Portland is ready to commit to tanking the rest of the season and upping the odds around their 2022 lottery-protected first-round selection.
Powell and Covington were brought into a team that was ready to win now, but extraneous circumstances separated the team’s timeline from the veterans’. Now, Norm and RoCo can take their services to a squad that’s more ready to contend in the near future, as soon as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George make their return to the court.
Portland Trail Blazers trade Robert Covington and Norman Powell to the Los Angeles Clippers
Eric Bledsoe has been one of the NBA’s most overpaid players since he signed his four-year, $70 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2019.
Now, Portland has the pleasure of paying out the remainder of his 2021-2022 salary and seeing what he still has to offer on a professional basketball court. The silver lining in this deal is that Bledsoe has less than $4 million guaranteed on his contract for 2022-2023, according to spotrac.
If the Trail Blazers and Joe Cronin — or whoever’s the GM at that juncture — deem that Bledsoe isn’t worth his nearly $20 cap figure, they can buy him out at a much more digestible price.
Justise Winslow offers Portland an elite perimeter defender with size who can slash and create for others. That’s the idealized version of the former Miami Heat lottery selection. In reality, he’s become rather unplayable due to his shooting deficiencies.
Portland takes a flier on the former blue-chip prospect and, even if he doesn’t pan out, will only have to pay him $4 million next season.
Keon Johnson was the 21st overall pick of last year’s draft and hasn’t made an immediate impact in the NBA. His arrival, though, helps to mitigate Portland’s loss of backcourt depth with Norman Powell gone. Acquiring the young guard implies that the Trail Blazers are preparing for CJ McCollum’s departure as well.
In the end, the trade makes sense for financial and draft odds reasons, but it certainly seemed like Cronin and Portland could have gotten better value in return for Powell and RoCo.
Hopefully, some further deals are coming soon to complete the full picture that Joe Cronin had in mind.