The Portland Trail Blazers are in year one of a roster overhaul as they rebuild their franchise around young potential superstars Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe. Head coach Chauncey Billups is tasked with developing that youth, while general manager Joe Cronin is responsible for acquiring more talent and assets.
Portland is off to a not-so-great 6-13 start, but Sharpe's game has taken a significant jump from last year, and while Henderson struggled to begin his rookie season, he's starting to show glimpses of why he was the third-overall pick in last year's draft.
Anfernee Simons is still shelved after thumb surgery but is presumably part of the rebuild as well as a proven NBA scorer at just 24 years old.
Those are three solid pieces to serve as the Blazers' future foundation, but there's always room for more, and Cronin will need to start adding to his team's frontcourt. There just so happens to be one of those lingering in Houston who may not be part of the Rockets' present or future, and if that's the case, the Blazers need to make a move as soon as possible to bring him to Rip City.
Rockets rookie Cam Whitmore listed as potential Blazers trade target
In a holiday-gift-related piece, Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report gave each NBA team a list of three presents to go shopping for ahead of this season's February trade deadline. Unsurprisingly, No. 1 on the Trail Blazers' wish list is more draft picks, but the second item of potential interest to Portland may be even more valuable.
Cam Whitmore was a projected top-10 pick in June but experienced a dramatic slide on draft night. Houston stopped his fall at No. 20, but the 19-year-old hasn't seen a ton of minutes on a feisty Rockets team aiming for a playoff spot this season.
The former Villanova Wildcat has only appeared in five games with Houston, averaging 4.0 points in 6.4 minutes a night. He's spent more time in the G League, playing six games for the Rio Grand Valley Vipers, where he's averaging 24.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals on 49/43/79 shooting splits.
The 6-foot-7, 232-pound combo forward is a strong, explosive straight-line athlete who can get to the rim and finish over, around and through defenders. He was an elite competitor at Villanova, which combined with his size and athleticism, makes him a strong rebounder on both ends and a potentially versatile on- and off-ball defender.
He needs to prove he can develop his outside shot - hitting 43.1 percent of his 9-plus attempts per game with the Vipers seems promising - and learn how to play better within a team scheme. At only 19 though, if given the leeway to play through mistakes, Whitmore has all the physical tools needed to become an NBA star.
The 2023-24 Blazers are a scrappy, competitive team that uses effort, hustle and athleticism to win games. That's what Billups is looking for from his young players, and that's exactly what Whitmore can provide at this stage of his career.
He's as explosive and athletic as Sharpe and Scoot, but he's well-built at 6-7 and could slot in at either forward spot, and he's strong enough to play as a small-ball center.
The Rockets held interest in Jerami Grant before he re-upped with Portland last summer, and if they're still in the running for a postseason place when he's eligible to be traded on Jan. 15, would be a logical landing spot for the veteran forward. Getting Whitmore - a rookie with superstar upside - may be the most valuable piece Cronin can grab in a Grant trade.
A package built around Whitmore and the expiring contracts of Victor Oladipo and Jeff Green could be the framework of a deal that makes sense for both sides.
If Houston does make Whitmore available, he should vault to the top of Cronin's holiday wish list immediately.
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