The Portland Trail Blazers shook up their roster as well as the NBA this offseason with two massive trades, first sending Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-team deal and subsequently moving Jrue Holiday to the Boston Celtics just a few days later.
Gone is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. The Blazers have officially turned the page and the keys over a young trio of guards in Scoot Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons.
In the Lillard trade, Portland brought back Deandre Ayton, a 25-year-old center who projects as a versatile defender, offensive focal point (at least for this season) and Scoot’s pick-and-roll partner for the foreseeable future.
In the Holiday trade, the Trail Blazers got veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon and another 25-year-old center, Robert Williams III.
At first glance, it appeared Brogdon could be flipped just as Holiday was, but could Williams be the one to go instead?
Portland Trail Blazers send Robert Williams to Memphis Grizzlies in mock trade
The Memphis Grizzlies lost starting center Steven Adams to a knee injury just days before the start of the 2023-24 regular season. Adams is one of the strongest players in the NBA and one if its best screeners and rebounders. His size is a deterrent near the rim and he’s an underrated passer from the post.
Williams is only 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds compared to Adams, who’s 6-11, 265, but the former Celtic provides many of the same attributes. He’s an all-NBA caliber defender when healthy and one of the league’s most explosive athletes.
The Grizzlies are already missing Ja Morant for the first 25 games of the year, but the idea of a Morant-Williams pick-and-roll when he returns might be even more enticing than a Henderson-Williams pairing.
Memphis is a team in win-now mode, even with Ja missing a decent chunk of the year, and the Grizzlies are already without big man Brandon Clarke, who suffered an ACL injury in March. There’s still no timetable for his return.
A team that finished second in the West in 2021-22 and was only two wins away from a spot in the Western Conference Finals that season and is loaded with talent in Morant, Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart can’t afford to waste a year with no center.
Replacing Clarke’s athleticism and Adams’ defense and rebounding for only future draft picks (Memphis wouldn’t be losing any players from its rotation or roster) seems like a fair deal.
Is this trade worth it for the Blazers?
Portland is clearly in full rebuild mode. The goal of the 2023-24 season is to develop players, not win games. So in that context, grabbing a pair of lightly protected first-round picks in exchange for a player who never put on a Rip City jersey seems like a solid move for the Blazers’ future.
The trade would give Portland two first-round picks in the 2025 NBA Draft that is projected to be one of the most talent-rich drafts in recent memory, and the Blazers would grab potentially a third first-rounder in 2028 (they have the chance to swap picks with the Bucks in addition to their own pick).
The Portland Trail Blazers are building for the future, and they would only double down on that plan by taking advantage of contending team’s desperation.