The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, leaving the Portland Trail Blazers with their roster set for the regular season stretch run.
In the eight games since the trade deadline, the Blazers are only 2-6, needing 71 points from Damian Lillard in one game and 40 in another to get wins against the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, two teams below them in the standings.
Still, it might be confusing to contemplate the idea that Portland would consider trading arguably their second-best player in Anfernee Simons. As a 23-year-old playing in his fifth season, Simons has balled out to the tune of 21 points and 4 assists per game and 38 percent 3-point shooting on high volume.
He’s also just starting a large extension that the team signed him to last offseason.
If the Trail Blazers are serious about building a contender around Damian Lillard, however, they need to be open to making big changes to their roster. Simons is a great young piece, but he also plays a similar brand of basketball to Lillard at a lower level.
He’s a defensive sieve, doesn’t have great size for his position, and isn’t playing the ideal role for his game.
Given the Blazers already have a franchise guard, any trade that sends Simons out will need to bring a big fish in. Here are three deals that could give the Blazers a better chance to contend for an NBA title by giving Lillard a better supporting cast for the postseason.
Trade #1: Anfernee Simons for Mikal Bridges
This may seem like a surprising trade, given how many offers for multiple first-round picks the Nets declined for Bridges at the deadline, but the terms of many deals were never released. That indicates that they weren’t premium selections offered, making Bridges’ value a bit closer to one or two first-round picks or a team-controlled young star.
Enter Anfernee Simons. Despite a few bursts of scoring from Cam Thomas and the steady play of Spencer Dinwiddie, Simons would immediately become the best guard in Brooklyn. He’d thrive in a role that would let him handle the ball more as a primary creator and could develop into a star under Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn’s coaching.
For the Blazers, the deal makes a lot of sense. They spent most of the trade deadline trying to grab their wing of the future, acquiring Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, and Kevin Knox, but imagine combining all three of these players into one wing. That’s Bridges in a nutshell.
He’s a certified defensive stopper who has been a top-class role player his entire career until his trade to Brooklyn in the Kevin Durant blockbuster. In his eight games in Brooklyn, Bridges has flexed a surprising amount of scoring potential, averaging 25 points in a more featured role.
It may take some draft picks alongside Simons to get him, but acquiring this version of Bridges would be grabbing Damian Lillard a co-star that fits beautifully next to him. He looks ready to be a secondary scorer, plays a position of need on the wing, defends players of all sizes at a high level, and is under team control for years to come.
If the Blazers are serious about contending, they could do a lot worse than grabbing one of the best young two-way wings in the league.