It wasn’t long ago that the Portland Trail Blazers were facing the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Though they lost that series, there was a lot of hope and optimism that the Blazers were finally ready to jump over the hump.
Unfortunately, they have been unable to replicate the success they had just last season, and instead of improving, their most recent campaign has been headlined by injury, inconsistency, and disappointment.
This reality is the reason why many experts around the league anticipate a major move by the team and, as recently detailed by Bleacher Report, it’s the reason they could be looking at two prominent defensive big men.
Hassan Whiteside almost certainly won’t be back next season, as Jusuf Nurkic should be ready to rock at center, and a healthy Zach Collins deserves a chance to prove he can handle second-unit minutes at the 5 while starting at the 4.
The Trail Blazers, armed with the mid-level (and maybe a little more if they don’t pick up Trevor Ariza’s nonguaranteed deal for 2020-21) should still look to find inexpensive frontcourt help and another wing. That last part will become doubly important if Ariza isn’t on the roster.
Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee (player option) could eat up minutes against backups if Collins isn’t ready to man the center spot, though Cheick Diallo would offer similar pick-and-roll punch if Portland wants to spend a little less at the position. Phoenix would have to decline its team option on Diallo to make that possible, which is conceivable but hardly certain.
With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers have enough to score points quickly and efficiently. Their biggest need is on the defensive end, where they rank
Both Dwight and JaVale can help with that problem. The role they play for the Lakers is the same one they will be expected to play in Portland. This season, Dwight is averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game on 73% shooting. JaVale is dropping similar numbers at 5.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Obviously, everything will depend on how the Blazers and Lakers play out the rest of the season. It will be interesting to witness how it all transpires.