The Portland Trail Blazers stand in the middle of what could prove to be the most crucial juncture of the last decade for the franchise. With another disappointing season in the books in which Portland failed to make the playoffs, the Blazers must decide what to do with Damian Lillard.
They can choose to trade away their transcendent superstar and start a rebuild, but if they opt to keep him on the books, they will have to retool the roster to get him some real help. Otherwise, it will be more of the same frustration.
Assuming they want to build a Western Conference contender for next year, the front office will likely be making everyone not named Lillard, and perhaps Jerami Grant, available this offseason. One of the top priorities in bringing in new talent will be to improve Portland’s dreadful defense.
To do that, the team will want to acquire the highest-level defensive players available. One proposed trade from Bleacher Report would see the Blazers send Anfernee Simons and either a 2023 or 2026 first-round pick to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for OG Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa.
This trade would be a massive upgrade for the Trail Blazers’ defense.
Adding Anunoby and Achiuwa to Portland’s roster would give the Blazers a significant boost on the defensive end. Anunoby is known as one of the most reliable all-around defenders in the NBA, with the physical tools to bother players of every shape and size.
Standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 230 pounds with a 7-2 wingspan, Anunoby’s ability to be switchable makes him useful in a multitude of lineups. In three postseasons with Toronto, he has taken on the assignment of defending all-world offensive talents like LeBron James, Jayson Tatum, and Joel Embiid.
Adding a playoff-tested veteran like OG to the Blazers’ starting lineup would significantly raise their floor defensively. Precious Achiuwa is a bit younger, but he brings the same level of tenacity and versatility on that side of the floor.
Would the Portland Trail Blazers be willing to make this sacrifice?
Giving up the talented Simons would certainly hurt for Blazers fans; but in the end, Portland’s goal would be to sacrifice youth for the sake of building a roster that can contend now, rather than down the road. Flipping Simons for Achiuwa and Anunoby would undoubtedly maximize their potential in the immediate future.
On the other hand, why would the Raptors be willing to give up their defensive stud? The answer likely lies in OG’s contract situation. Heading into the final year of the four-year deal he signed with Toronto in 2020, the Raptors could avoid having to make a decision about re-signing Anunoby in 2024 by dealing him away this summer.
Of course, that opens up the question of how smart it would be for Portland to take on a player on an expiring contract, but no matter how long Anunoby remains with the Blazers, his talent would give them exponentially better chances of contending for a championship, whether that be for one season or several.
If the Raptors actually offered this trade, the fact that just one first-round pick is included should be the deciding factor that makes the Blazers say yes. We have seen multiple teams overpay in offseason trades the last several years, but this deal would be the perfect compromise to land Portland a game-changing player.