Jan. 15 isn’t one of the most significant dates on the NBA calendar. But when it comes to trade season it does hold some importance, especially for teams like the Portland Trail Blazers that might be looking for an upgrade at certain spots in anticipation of a playoff push.
Players who re-signed with their previous team this offseason but got a raise of at least 20 percent, whose salary is worth more than the minimum, and whose team was over the cap which necessitated using Bird or Early Bird rights to sign them, are now eligible to be dealt per NBA rules, according to HoopsRumors.
Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic are two such players in Portland. But rather than trading away a starting center and a key scorer, the Blazers should be looking to add around the margins to balance out their roster and improve their scoring punch (or lack thereof) off the bench.
Here are three candidates now available for Portland to pursue with the goal of climbing up the Western Conference standings and solidifying a playoff spot.
1. An Orlando Magic center who’s fallen out of the rotation
Mo Bamba was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. His potential as a floor-spacing, rim-running, shot-blocking, uber-athletic 7-footer was too enticing for Orlando to pass up.
Through four and a half seasons, those irresistible traits have not translated into a superstar center. Bamba has career averages of 7.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks on 48 percent shooting and 35.6 percent shooting from three.
That’s not to say the former Texas standout hasn’t developed into a serviceable big. Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging 15 points, 11.3 rebounds, and more than two blocks per game for his career. Shooting 37.6 percent from deep on more than five attempts is nothing to scoff at either.
Drew Eubanks has exceeded expectations backing up Nurkic, but Bamba’s ability to stretch the floor for a second unit that struggles offensively while still functioning as a legitimate deterrent at the rim on the other end would be an upgrade.
There’s also a risk-reward factor here. Bamba has a non-guaranteed salary of $10.3 million next season. If the experiment doesn’t work, Portland can easily cut bait and move on.