With currently sidelined Portland Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic likely to be healthy in time for the start of the 2020-21 season, the team is also expected to lose their erstwhile starter in the middle, Hassan Whiteside, to free agency in the 2020 offseason. With that in mind, a recent report suggested that the Blazers could beef up their rotation at the “five” position by signing either one of two Los Angeles Lakers big men — Dwight Howard or JaVale McGee — during this year’s free-agency period.
As explained early on Saturday morning by Bleacher Report, the Trail Blazers will be entering this year’s offseason with a mid-level exception and could have more money to spend on free agents if they choose not to pick up the second, non-guaranteed year of veteran small forward Trevor Ariza’s contract. The outlet noted that the Blazers should ideally focus on “inexpensive” options to upgrade their frontcourt and wing rotations.
Talking about potential free-agency targets to address the former concern, Bleacher Report suggested Howard and McGee as two players who could “eat up minutes” against opposing teams’ second units, especially if young seven-footer Zach Collins struggles when used as a backup center. At the moment, the expectation is for the 22-year-old Collins to step up as Portland’s starting power forward, with Nurkic returning at center for the first time since he suffered a serious leg injury late in the 2018-19 season.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) May 22, 2020
Despite playing in a reserve role for the first time in his 16-year NBA career, Howard has been a key part of the Lakers’ rotation since signing with the team as a free agent last summer. Per Basketball-Reference, he is averaging 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game and shooting 73.2 percent from the field in 19.2 minutes per game.
McGee, who has a player option with the Lakers for 2020-21, has posted averages of 6.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks and a shooting clip of 64 percent from the field as the team’s starting center this season. He has, however, seen his playing time (16.8 minutes per game) decline substantially in 2019-20, largely thanks to the acquisitions of Howard and former All-NBA big man Anthony Davis.
To address the Blazers’ potential lack of wing depth, Bleacher Report suggested Joe Harris of the Brooklyn Nets and another Lakers player — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — as possible offseason acquisitions.
Howard and McGee are far from the only big men who have been linked to the Trail Blazers as hypothetical trade or free-agency targets. Late last month, The Inquisitr reported on a trade idea that would allow Portland to land Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, with the team giving up Nurkic, wingmen Anfernee Simons and Rodney Hood, and multiple future draft picks in return.