No. 5: Blazers improve their D, keep some draft assets
Most trades involving the Trail Blazers and the Nets surround Mikal Bridges. That’s well warranted, as Bridges blew up in Brooklyn after his trade from the Suns, but he’s in the prime of his career, is team controlled, and the Nets already rejected massive pick-laden packages for him at the trade deadline.
Instead of overpaying to pry Bridges out of Brooklyn’s clutches, Portland could instead pivot to grab the second-best asset that the Nets have: Nic Claxton.
Claxton emerged as one of the more athletic defensive centers in the league last year, helping the Nets to a great defensive rating when Kevin Durant was still with the team. He would be one of the few players who could singlehandedly change Portland’s defense overnight.
The appeal of this trade comes from an honest assessment of the Nets’ current roster. At best, a team led by Bridges, Claxton, and Spencer Dinwiddie would make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, not contend for titles.
If their ultimate goal is to one day bring a trophy to Brooklyn, a player like Miller or Henderson would get them closer than running back this team.
Adding Claxton and pair of late first-round picks gives the Blazers a flexible trio of picks – Nos. 21, 22, and 23 – to target other players with, while also giving them the one of the best young defensive players in the league.
They could target some underrated draft prospects or package their picks to go get a starting small forward to shore up the last hole on their roster.