Defensive-minded big men
The center position is a controversial subject for Trail Blazers fans. One train of thought is that Portland desperately needs to upgrade at the position to find someone more versatile and defensive-minded than Jusuf Nurkic.
Others believe that they should stick with Nurkic, in large part because of his low trade value relative to his talent.
Time will tell what they do with Nurkic, but center is a position the Blazers can upgrade regardless.
Lopez is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a good reason this season. He finished the year with 2.5 blocks and 0.5 steals, with 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists on 53/37/78 shooting splits.
The Bucks finished the regular season with the NBA’s best record and boasted one of the top defenses, and Lopez played a considerable role in both. He had an 8.7 wins above replacement (WAR) rating and finished with a 6.09 real plus-minus, which was third amongst centers (only behind MVP frontrunners Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic).
Lopez seems content in Milwaukee due to his role and the team’s success, but the Blazers should heavily pursue him if they have the cap space (if Grant doesn’t re-sign) and he’s available.
Lopez is what Portland has been missing as an elite rim protector that can stretch the floor on offense.
A cheaper option than Lopez, Powell is also a good defender. He had a 1.2 defensive RAPTOR rating this season. While Powell only averaged 0.3 blocks and 0.6 steals, he does an excellent job of contesting shots and switching out onto smaller guards.
Powell is an under-the-radar free agent that could be a good depth piece within the Blazers’ limited price range.