The Portland Trail Blazers made a five-player deal with the Clippers on Friday, sending Norman Powell and Robert Covington to Los Angeles for not very much.
We here at Rip City Project had been waiting eagerly on the edges of our office chairs for the expected flurry of pre-NBA trade deadline deals to begin. Little did we expect the Blazers would be the team to get the ball rolling, and even littler did we expect the first trade to be such a stinker.
Two factors made Norman Powell expendable; his low cost-to-performance ratio for this and the following four seasons and the recent blossoming of Anfernee Simons from dunk champion with potential to bona fide NBA star.
And Robert Covington was not only mentioned in approximately 274,913,846 trade rumors in the last few weeks, but we here had included his $12.975 expiring deal in just about every fake trade we proposed. I personally offered to drive him to the airport on numerous occasions, so it’s no surprise he was part of interim GM Joe Cronin’s attempt to shed the $3 million or so needed to get the Blazers under the luxury tax.
What was surprising was the return – Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and Detroit’s second-round pick in the 2025 draft. Bledsoe has value only in his $4 million guarantee for next season, making him a prime candidate for a post-deadline buyout. Of course that would leave the Blazers – on the hook to Andrew Nicholson for one more year – with $7 million in dead money for next season, never a great way to start a rebuild.
He’ll likely never see the court for Portland and will either be flipped as a buyout asset or sent home with a bag full of cash by Cronin. Which leaves Winslow and Johnson, last year’s 21st overall pick.
While neither will be on next year’s All-Star team, at least they are both young and hungry and can play defense at an NBA level. Johnson couldn’t crack the Clipper’s deep lineup and Winslow has been an enigma in his seven years in the league and has started just seven games since 2019, but both will fill in for the last 30 games of the season as the Blazers try and gather ping pong balls for the draft lottery.
But this is largely a salary dump with the presumed goal of signing Simons to a long-term deal this summer, and the hoped additional goal of moving CJ McCollum for a forward of equal basketball value.
Because what they got for Powell and Covington was far less than equal basketball value, and at last check the Larry O’Brien Trophy is given to the team that wins in the playoffs, not the one that performs the best salary cap gymnastics.