For all the trades the Portland Trail Blazers made this offseason, it was the one they didn’t make that proved pivotal in a win over the Toronto Raptors. Damian Lillard went to the Milwaukee Bucks. Jrue Holiday went to the Boston Celtics. General manager Joe Cronin got veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon as part of the Holiday deal, and it was a foregone conclusion he would be flipped too. Right?
While the rest of the NBA world saw Brogdon as a 30-year-old who would only siphon minutes from young backcourt cornerstones Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, Cronin and head coach Chauncey Billups saw a mentor.
What they also saw was last year’s Sixth Man of the Year, the 2017 Rookie of the Year and a proven winner. The controversial decision not to flip Brogdon, but to instead add him as an ancillary piece to Portland’s future core, paid dividends in the Blazers’ first win of the season.
Malcolm Brogdon was instrumental in helping the Trail Blazers beat the Raptors
It wasn’t always pretty (don’t expect any games this season to be particularly aesthetically pleasing), but Portland held off the Raptors late for a 99-91 road win, the first of the year for the new-look Blazers.
Jerami Grant scored 22 points and Deandre Ayton added 10 to go along with a career-high 23 rebounds, but it was Brogdon who stole the show down the stretch.
Raptors guard Dennis Schroder hit a pull-up jumper to pull Toronto within one at 88-87 with 3:25 left in the fourth quarter, but Brogdon carried the Blazers across the finish line, scoring or assisting on Portland’s next nine points.
He found Grant for a three to put his team back up by four and then drove to the rim and scored to put the Blazers ahead by six, 93-87.
After Schroder cut the lead to four again, Brogdon scored off an Ayton offensive rebound to extend the lead to 95-89. He all but sealed the win with another drive and score to give Portland a 97-91 lead with only 26 seconds left.
He finished with 21 points and 5 assists and connected on 3 of his 7 3-point attempts.
Ayton grabbed the headlines for DominAyton the glass and Grant played a key role, but Brogdon was the closer for the Trail Blazers, salting away Portland’s first win of the post-Damian Lillard era.
Holding onto Brogdon rather than flipping him for more draft picks was a debatable decision at the time, and he might still be sent packing by the trade deadline. But in hindsight, keeping the veteran guard around seems like an intelligent call by Cronin, and it sure paid off against the Raptors.