The Portland Trail Blazers have been the subject of many trade speculations as the 2018 NBA trade deadline looms. Initial rumors say that they are going to be sellers, but the latest ones say that the team could also be buyers.
Late last month, NBA writer Marc Stein reported the possibility of Portland breaking apart their vaunted backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum by trading the latter within the year. The reason, as Stein noted, was that the coaching staff wants to balance their roster that is said to be too guard-heavy for their taste.
However, a report from Dave Deckard of SB Nation’s Blazer’s Edge said that the Blazers “don’t want to trade McCollum” and that the team just wanted more consistency from starting center Jusuf Nurkic, citing a Zach Lowe podcast with ESPN analyst Adrian Wojnarowski as the source.
At the moment, the Blazers are sixth in the West, only a half-game ahead of seventh-seed New Orleans Pelicans and one game in front of eighth-seed Denver Nuggets. They are on a two-game losing slide after the 97-96 nail-biter against the Boston Celtics on Sunday night.
With the ongoing close fight for playoff seeds, rumors abound that Portland wants to improve its roster and has begun to shift from sellers to buyers as the deadline approaches. The team is reportedly looking for a dependable big man that could complement well with Lillard and McCollum in the starting lineup.
Hoops Hype’s Frank Urbina suggested a trade that would send the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and Mario Hezonja to the Blazers in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic, Meyers Leonard, Zach Collins, and Orlando’s 2018 first-round draft pick.
There are rumors that the Blazers have been interested in trading for Vucevic since before last season’s deadline, but no deals have pushed through between them and the Magic.
Right now, Portland is heavily-linked to Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan and Urbina believes that if the Blazers felt they will not be able to reach an agreement with the Clips, then Vucevic would be their next likely target.
Vucevic’s “floor spacing and efficient scoring” would indeed balance the offensive production between the Blazers’ frontcourt and backcourt and his defensive rebounding is deemed as an “upgrade over Nurkic’s,” Urbina said.
Vucevic is still on his way to his prime and could help form a reliable trio with Lillard and McCollum for years to come. The 27-year-old Montenegrin is averaging 17.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steals in almost 30 minutes per game for the Magic in 34 games this season.