As Portland Trail Blazers rumors swirl, will fantasy become reality as NBA draft approaches? Analysis

[view original post]

The NBA draft is less than two weeks away, which means that the trade rumor mill is about to kick into high gear and the Portland Trail Blazers certainly will be mentioned in the rumblings.

The Blazers, coming off of a 27-55 season that saw them move popular players CJ McCollum and Norman Powell, have the No. 7 pick in the June 23 draft but are desperate to add an impact, veteran talent to play alongside Damian Lillard.

Such a move could require trading the No. 7 pick.

But for whom? And at what position?

The options appear to be numerous if the most recent bout of rumors are to be believed.

Atlanta forward John Collins. Detroit forward Jerami Grant. Toronto forward OG Anunoby. Chicago guard Zach LaVine. Washington guard Bradley Beal.

All five have been linked to the Blazers at some level, ranging from legitimate speculation to pontificating nonsense that lacks substance but makes for good social media debate fodder in between NBA Finals games.

The Blazers could, of course, keep the pick and hope that a young player develops rapidly. But history suggests that such a thing is rare, especially at the No. 7 pick.

The goal is, and should be, to trade the pick, but only if the right deal is available.

Here is a look at how the aforementioned five talented players would fit in with the Blazers:

1. John Collins | Atlanta | 6-9 | power forward

Fit: About perfect.

This would be a dream come true for the Blazers. They’d get a veteran player locked into a long-term contract who is old enough (25 in September) after five seasons to provide a veteran mindset but still young enough to believe that his best basketball is ahead of him.

Collins could both step in right away and help Lillard’s quest to contend now, yet still be in his prime after the Blazers’ six-time All-Star exits his. Lillard turns 36 prior to the 2026-27 season, when Collins will turn 29. Anfernee Simons will turn 27 that same year.

Defensively, Collins hasn’t been great. His rating has been 111 to 113 the past four seasons. The Blazers would have to push him to become better at that end.

But he has the length and athleticism the Blazers need, plus offensive versatility. For his career, Collins has shot 55.9% from the field and 37.6% on threes.

But he’s taken just 11.6 shot attempts with 2.5 threes. He put up only 12.2 and 3.3 last season.

Part of the problem for Collins has been that he has been playing with a shoot-first point guard in Trae Young. Lillard certainly takes a lot of shots, but he would likely be more amenable to setting up Collins often in order to take advantage of his scoring abilities.

Collins’ best season came in 2019-20, when he averaged 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting 58.3% from the field and 40.1% on threes.

Plug those numbers into the Blazers lineup and the entire dynamic of the team would change.

Collins has three years remaining on his deal, with the fourth year being a player option. He will make about $25.5 million per season.

A negative could be durability. Collins has played more than 63 games once during his career and last season missed 28 games, ending the season with a sprained foot and sprained finger.

Now, there is some uncertainty as to the availability of Collins. Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report reported that Collins could be available in the trade market and named the Blazers as a possible suitor.

But Hawks CEO Steve Koonin on Friday dismissed those rumors with prejudice during a radio show appearance.

2. Jerami Grant | Detroit | 6-8 | power forward |

Fit: Strong.

Grant has been long linked to the Blazers. He is considered to be infinitely available because the Pistons don’t appear to be willing to offer him an extension worth $111 million over four seasons.

PORTLAND, OREGON – NOVEMBER 30: Jerami Grant #9 of the Detroit Pistons shoots against Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers during the third quarter at Moda Center on November 30, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)Getty Images

Grant is long, athletic, a versatile scorer and has the potential to be a quality defensive player under Blazers coach Chauncey Billups.

Grant’s shooting numbers took a dip since landing in Detroit in 2020. Last season, he shot 42.6% from the field and 35.8% on threes. In his final season with Denver (2019-20) while playing on a much better team, Grant shot 47.8% from the field and 38.9% on threes.

Could Grant return to those shooting numbers as the third or fourth option playing alongside Lillard, Simons, Hart and Nurkic? Possibly.

Grant would easily be the team’s best power forward since LaMarcus Aldridge departed as a free agent in 2015. And Grant would come relatively cheaply on the books while having upside at age 28.

The Blazers certainly would prefer to land an All-Star or someone who has been a bit better such as Collins. But inserting Grant into the starting lineup at power forward would certainly make the Blazers a more versatile team than they were last season starting a three-guard lineup.

3. OG Anunoby | Toronto | 6-7 | forward

Fit: Versatile.

The Raptors selected Anunoby with the 23rd pick during the 2017 draft. He has proven to be quite a steal, but now it’s being reported that the Raptors could be interested in trading Anunoby.

Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby, right, drives to the basket as Portland Trail Blazers forward Norman Powell defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer) APAP

The emergence of rookie small forward Scottie Barnes last season, along with the presence of All-Star power forward Pascal Siakam, gives Toronto the reverse of the problem the Blazers faced. The Raptors have too many quality forwards and not enough playing time to go around.

Anunoby is on a very team-friendly contract. He has two years remaining at an average of $18 million per year ,with a player option worth $19.9 million in 2024-25.

That price point would fit nicely with the expected re-signings of Simons and center Jusuf Nurkic.

Anunoby averaged 17.1 points and 5.5 rebounds last season while shooting 44.3% from the field and 36.3% on threes. And those numbers were down from the previous season, when he shot 48% from the field and 39.8% on threes.

Defensively, Anunoby would be a huge addition. He had a 108.1 defensive rating last season and 109.1 the season before.

Ideally, he fits as a small forward but can play power forward. Acquiring him could mean seeking other avenues to add at power forward.

It’s conceivable that the Blazers could acquire both Anunoby and Grant should one trade partner be willing to take future compensation rather than the team’s No. 7 pick this season.

Chances are that Collins cannot be had without giving up that selection, which the Blazers will have to make on draft day because they traded last year’s No. 1 pick away in the 2020 trade with Houston for Robert Covington.

A team can’t trade its first-round pick in back-to-back seasons.

Pulling off landing both Anunoby and Grant likely won’t happen. But even coming away with Anunoby would be a huge upgrade to the lineup.

4. Zach LaVine | Chicago | 6-5 | shooting guard

Fit: Ridiculous.

A backcourt combination of Lillard and LaVine (24.4 points per game last season) would be spectacular.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine fires a three over Cleveland Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro in the first half of play. Joshua Gunter,

Acquiring LaVine would be akin to acquiring a taller, more athletic version of McCollum with the same scoring repertoire.

Unfortunately, LaVine plays defense about as well as McCollum. As good as the Bulls were last season with LaVine and DeMar DeRozan carrying the offense, they struggled against good teams that could take advantage of their defensive weaknesses.

Lillard and LaVine would face the same issues.

Now, if this is the best option on the table, then maybe the Blazers just go for it. But it would come with a huge price.

LaVine is an unrestricted free agent and wants max dollars. Should the Blazers and Bulls execute a sign-and-trade, LaVine would ink a five-year deal worth $200 million. That means the Blazers would be paying their backcourt of Lillard and LaVine about $90 million per season on average.

That’s great if you’re contending. If not, then it becomes problematic to build a winner around those two without going deep into the luxury tax.

Next, factor in the impact on Simons. Keeping Simons at, say, $18 million per would mean that the Blazers would have about $108 million tied up in their backcourt.

Hart would likely be gone in this scenario and that raises the following question: Wouldn’t the Blazers be better off paying a combined $30 million per year to Simons and Hart ($12 million per year), who is a good defender, rather than give $40 million per year to LaVine when the team has so many other needs?

Furthermore, Cronin and Billups made it clear last season that moving McCollum and Powell was done in part to clear a path for Simons to soar. Adding LaVine would thwart that effort.

Finally, Simons is not as good as LaVine, but he is not far off offensively and is still maturing as a player. Defensively, Simons has work to do. That makes it all the more important that the Blazers add a new face who brings some defense to the table.

Then one must factor in what other assets the Blazers would have to give up for LaVine. Under no circumstances should that package include Simons.

Again, if LaVine is the best option on the table, maybe the Blazers go for it and hope for the best. But the Blazers need defense, not more offense, and not at a price tag of $200 million.

5. Bradley Beal | Washington | 6-3 | shooting guard

Fit: Absurd.

Basically, take everything stated in the LaVine section and insert it here. Then add the fact that Beal is the same height as McCollum. Next, gasp at the fact that Beal, a three-time All-Star, has one year remaining on his contract at $36.4 million and is eligible for a four-year, $181 million extension. Should he wait until next summer, that contract could balloon to $250 million over five years.

Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal (3) drives to the basket ahead of Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant (12) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)AP

That would have the Blazers paying Lillard and Beal, who turns 29 this month, a combined $100 million-plus per season during much of their time together.

And for what? A slightly better backcourt than what they had with Lillard and McCollum but with the same issues on defense?

That simply doesn’t make sense. Yes, Beal has averaged 30 points per game before, but Simons will average about 20 and the other 10 points could be spread around a lineup that is in desperate need of size, not another small guard.

At least LaVine offers more length and athleticism than Beal would.

The move for Beal simply wouldn’t make much sense at all, even before considering the assets Portland would have to give up to make such a deal.

He isn’t worth it for the Blazers.


Many fans still wonder why the Blazers shipped off McCollum (New Orleans) and Powell (LA Clippers) in deals that, talent for talent, were lopsided.

The plan was to acquire avenues to make a deal that would land players that better fit alongside Lillard and Simons. Collins, Grant and Anunoby would fit that criteria.

Should the Blazers come away with at least one of those three, the roster moving and shaking could be deemed a success.

— Aaron Fentress | | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).

Subscribe to Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts for the latest news and top stories