The Portland Trail Blazers have become the darlings of the NBA’s rumor mill these past few days as several of their key players were mentioned in the latest trade rumors across the league. The team is struggling to stay afloat in the Western Conference as they try to hold on to the seventh-seed, only one game ahead of eighth-seed Denver Nuggets.
It all began with a prediction made by the New York Times’ Marc Stein last week. Stein said that the Blazers would soon “break up” their backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum because the team is rumored to be looking to balance their roster.
Stein said that between the two, McCollum would “most likely” be traded for a big man that can complement well with Lillard. The analyst called the potential trade the “easiest path” for Portland to achieve their goals.
Starting center Jusuf Nurkic’s name has also recently been brought up, as several rumors suggest that he could be traded to either one of the two Los Angeles squads, the Lakers and Clippers. Oregon Live’s Molly Blue discussed a possible Lakers deal for Julius Randle while Bleacher Report’s Timothy Rapp reported that the Blazers reached out to the Clippers for DeAndre Jordan.
However, the latest Blazers players mentioned in this week’s trade speculations are two substitute players: Shabazz Napier and Maurice Harkless.
Napier, 26, is in his second year with the Blazers after spending the first two years of his career with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic respectively. He has become one of the most reliable bench players in head coach Terry Stotts roster, averaging 10.0 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and a team-leading 1.3 steals in 21.3 minutes per game.
Some analysts believe that Napier’s remarkable play as Lillard main backup has somewhat increased his trade value. A previous Inquisitr report said that the Cleveland Cavaliers could also be interested in trading for the former Connecticut standout before next month’s trade deadline.
Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Harkless is an athletic wing player that plays decent defense. However, his main weakness continues to be his offensive skillset, and that made him fall out of Stotts’ rotation this season.
FanSided’s Hoops Habit proposed a trade that would send Napier, Harkless, and a future first-round draft pick to Charlotte in exchange for Walker.
The blog noted that while the trade “doesn’t make sense for Portland,” evidently because they already have the potent backcourt duo of Lillard and McCollum, adding Walker to the group would be a welcome move for Stotts’ trademark three-guard system.
Walker is indeed a huge upgrade over Napier and could also be the perfect alternate for the oft-injured Lillard. With Walker around, the Blazers can “rotate those three guards and always have an elite ball-handler on the floor,” the blog said.