The Portland Trail Blazers made some moves this past offseason, unloading Hassan Whiteside to make room for some wings like Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. Add those pieces alongside a (finally) healthy roster, and it's easy to see how some have the Blazers making some serious waves in the West.
Regardless, the Trail Blazers aren't exactly favorites to win the title, mostly due to their lack of star power in a conference that is saturated with them.
But with the James Harden situation destabilizing by the day in Houston, it seems Portland has an opportunity to add an All-NBA level player alongside their franchise point guard.
In a proposed three-team trade by Lauren Gunn of SB Nation’s Mavs Moneyball, Harden and Lillard join forces in the Northwest, Houston would get McCollum, Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, James Johnson, and three picks, and the Mavericks would receive PJ Tucker and a 2024 first-round pick.
As Gunn points out, it's one of those situations where everybody comes out a winner.
Johnson and Tucker are both expiring contracts, but Tucker is at the stage in his career where he wants to be on a contender, so Dallas only makes this trade if we can get an indication from him that he intends to stick around. Trading Johnson to Houston prevents Portland from having to include another large contract to make the contracts work. This would be a good trade for Portland because Harden would be an upgrade from McCollum. A backcourt of Dame and Harden would be nearly impossible to guard. Harden’s personality would be a questionable fit in Rip City, but if they’re looking to take a step up, this might be their opportunity.
If you're the Blazers, taking on Harden is an easy call, even despite all the antics he's pulling in Houston. He's an MVP and 30+ point per game scorer who would instantly make the team better. A partnership between him and Damian Lillard would be downright nasty.
The Mavs also get a nice shooter and veteran in PJ Tucker, who adds some depth and versatility to a team trying to take a step up from last year.
The big question in this scenario, however, is the Rockets. How close are they to trading James? Does McCollum and a package of young players/picks meet their price tag? If Houston is keen on a rebuild, this should stand out as an intriguing offer.
At this point, though, there's just no way to know what will happen in the coming days and weeks.