Despite having the explosive backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers are not expected to make a huge impact in the 2018-19 NBA season. In the ESPN Summer Forecast, panelists predicted the Trail Blazers will fail to earn a playoff spot in the deep Western Conference, only finishing as the No. 10 seed with a 43-39 win-loss record. The prediction is not surprising at all, especially for those people who saw the Trail Blazers being swept by the DeMarcus Cousins-less New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs 2018.
The Western Conference is expected to be more competitive next season now that LeBron James is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Even if the Trail Blazers succeed in making their sixth consecutive appearance in the NBA Playoffs, it remains questionable if they have the capability to beat powerhouse teams like the Houston Rockets and the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors in a best-of-seven series. If they want to increase their chance of fully dominating the Western Conference, the Trail Blazers should consider making a big move before the February NBA trade deadline.
According to Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report, one of the potential trade deadline targets for the Trail Blazers is Jimmy Butler of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Jimmy Butler may be unhappy in Minnesota, and although adding him at the deadline creates a risk he’ll bounce after opting out of his deal, it’s possible Portland is ready to gamble. Ideally, the Blazers could build a package around Evan Turner and a first-round pick, but that’ll only work if Butler makes it perfectly clear he’s not going to re-sign with the Wolves. If that’s how it plays out, Minnesota’s expected return craters, and the allure of a first-rounder might be too hard to resist.”
Report: Jimmy Butler 'open to the idea' of joining LeBron James, Lakers https://t.co/TrhmchhaUF
— LeBron Wire (@LeBron_Wire) August 24, 2018
The potential acquisition of Jimmy Butler will undeniably make the Trail Blazers a more competitive team in the 2018-19 NBA season. He will not only give the Trail Blazers a reliable scoring option, but he will also boost their performance on the defensive end of the floor. In the 59 games he played last season, Butler averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.0 steals on 47.4 percent shooting from the field, and 35 percent from beyond the arc. The core of Butler, Damian Lillard, and C.J. McCollum will give a huge headache to any teams in the Western Conference.
If the Timberwolves can not get a commitment that Jimmy Butler intends to stay beyond the 2018-19 NBA season, trading him now will be their best option, rather than losing him in the summer of 2019 as an unrestricted free agent without getting anything in return. However, it remains questionable if the package consisting of Evan Turner and a future first-round pick can convince the Timberwolves to send Butler to Portland.