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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Blazers are playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning six of nine, including impressive victories against the Spurs and Thunder. At the same time, Portland is being mentioned in trade rumors as the Feb. 8 deadline approaches.
It's time to check in on the Blazers with another edition of 3-on-3, a weekly KGW feature.
Every Thursday, three members of the KGW sports team will answer three questions about the Blazers. You can join the conversation on Facebook during a live chat with our panel every Thursday afternoon at 3. Can't join us on Thursday? Not a problem. You can listen later on the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast.
This week's questions focus on the trade deadline. Should the Blazers pursue Chicago Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic? Should they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline this season? And then the guys make their predictions for the next three games.
If you'd like to submit a question for today's Facebook Live and podcast, email us here. (Story continues below)
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MEET OUR PANELISTS
- Orlando Sanchez is the sports anchor and reporter for KGW News, Sports Sunday and Friday Night Flights. Orlando has covered multiple NBA Finals, NCAA Basketball Tournaments and World Series.
- Jared Cowley is a digital media producer who writes about the Blazers for KGW.com. Before he came to KGW, Jared wrote about the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors as a sports editor at two daily newspapers.
- Nate Hanson is a digital producer who contributes to KGW.com’s coverage of the Blazers, Ducks, Beavers and high school sports.
1. The Blazers have been mentioned by Chicago Tribune Bulls beat writer K.C. Johnson and Chicago Sun-Times Bulls beat writer Joe Cowley as one of the teams interested in Bulls' power forward Nikola Mirotic. The Jazz, Pistons and Knicks are also interested. The Bulls want a first-round pick in any trade for Mirotic. Do you think the Blazers should pursue Mirotic, whose contract allows him to be traded starting on Jan. 15, and at what price? Should the Blazers trade a first-round pick for a player like Mirotic?
Nate: Yes but only if the Blazers plan to sign him long term. Otherwise it’s a waste because Mirotic won’t be enough of a difference maker to elevate this Blazers roster into a Western Conference contender over the next season and a half before he becomes a free agent. You also have to take into account that the Blazers' first-round pick will likely be in the late teens or early 20s. The Blazers probably aren’t going to find a player as good as Mirotic that late in the draft. Also, Mirotic is a great fit for this roster. He gives the Blazers a legitimate power forward so Al-Farouq Aminu can play at small forward, his true position. And he's also another offensive threat who has shown the ability to score inside and outside this season. As far as buyer’s beware goes, Mirotic’s scoring efficiency has been much better this season than in previous seasons. So you have to be concerned this may just be a hot stretch for him, but I would still deal a first-round pick for him. (Story continues below)
Nikola Mirotic career statistics
Jared: If you were to create the ideal power forward for a Terry Stotts’ team, Mirotic is pretty close to a perfect fit. He shoots the 3-pointer well (47 percent this season, 36 percent for his career), he’s got good size (6-10, 240 pounds) and he’s a solid defender (he’s had a positive real plus-minus on defense in each of his first three seasons and the Bulls have been about two points stingier on defense with him on the court during his career). His age — he turns 27 in February — fits the Blazers’ core. And he’s on a reasonable contract ($12.5 million) with team control through the end of next season. Mirotic is in the middle of the best season of his career right now, averaging about 17 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes per game. Mirotic isn’t without his flaws. He’s demonstrated some inconsistency during his first four seasons and there are reports he’s rubbed some teammates the wrong way. But he looks like he'd be a solid building block for the Blazers. I think it will take a combination of a first-round pick and expiring contracts to get Mirotic. Chicago does not want to add any salary past this season. If Portland can get Mirotic for a couple expiring contracts and a lottery protected 2018 first-round pick, they should go for it.
Orlando: Makes a lot of sense why the Blazers would be interested in Nikola Mirotic. He adds some versatility to an offense that has problems scoring points. He’s 6-foot-10 and can stretch the floor with his range. The Blazers defense may take a hit with him in the rotation, but the defense has been so good, they might be able to sacrifice a little on “D” in exchange for his production. I’m not a fan of giving up a first rounder for Nikola Mirotic, but the interest level goes up if there’s a way to unload one of Portland’s big contracts. Mirotic is having a good year, but I’m not sold the Blazers will get the same production. I do think it makes the Blazers better, just not sure it’s that much better.
2. Let's stick with the trade deadline, which drops early this year on February 8. How do you think the Blazers should view the upcoming trade season? As buyers? As sellers? If you were the general manager of the Blazers, how would you be looking at the trade deadline right now?
Jared: The Blazers shouldn't be buyers in the traditional sense of the term (pursuing win-now veteran players) because I don't think any realistic trade will vault them into title contention. No matter what they do at the trade deadline, it won't make them better than the Warriors. It's fun to dream of big blockbuster trades, but I don't think that's a likely scenario. I don't think Neil Olshey will trade either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum, and without one of those players attached to a trade offer, the Blazers don't have the pieces to bring back a star. Anthony Davis isn't walking through that door, folks. I think Portland should be smart sellers, not blowing up the roster to start over, but looking for trades that will improve the team over the next few seasons. They'll be looking to acquire draft picks or talented players whose age fits the core of this roster. I am curious to see if they put Jusuf Nurkic on the trade block. I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that they resign him this offseason. If they’re unsure of his future in Portland, they may look to see what they could get for him in trade.
Orlando: The Blazers are in an interesting position to be buyers or sellers. Since the team is trending in the right direction, it makes sense to be buyers. The problem, what’s out there to buy? Who is out there that can turn Portland into a contender? Winning the West is out of the question, but I do believe Portland can get to the second round this year. Halfway through the season and the Blazers are fifth in the west, so I’m saying there’s a chance. With that said, I’m not ready to blow up the roster by moving McCollum or Lillard. Everyone else is fair game to make a deal.
Nate: Right now, I’d straddle the fence of a buyer and seller, despite how much I know that would upset part of the fanbase. But outside of a complete rebuild, the Blazers are stuck. The roster isn’t good enough to compete for one of the top spots in the Western Conference and at the same time, it doesn’t present a lot of trade value outside of the two star guards. If there are options to improve this roster with a young, affordable player (such as Mirotic), then be a buyer. But if there are deals to be had for pending free agents (Napier, Davis and Nurkic), then the Blazers should be sellers. I would also be willing to deal Turner, or Meyers Leonard for a deal similar to the trade the Blazers made for Allen Crabbe. You get no value in return but you’re free to move forward with cap space. General manager Neil Olshey is in a conundrum. No matter what direction the Blazers want to go, outside of trading McCollum, there’s no move that will drastically change the end result of this season.
3. Prediction time! The Blazers play three games between now and the next time we meet. They finish off their four-game road trip with two more games, at the New Orleans Pelicans (20-20) on Friday and the Minnesota Timberwolves (27-16) on Sunday. They return to the Moda Center after that to play the Phoenix Suns (16-26). Which games do the Blazers win and which do they lose?
- Nate: 27-14
- Orlando: 26-15
- Jared: 25-16
Orlando: The offense has picked up and the defense is steady. The Blazers have stayed afloat when I thought they would sink as the schedule picked up. Two more tough road games await. Big man Anthony Davis could be back in the lineup Friday for the Pelicans, someone the Blazers basically haven’t had to face this season. You can count on DeMarcus Cousins getting his against the Blazers. Round 3 between them is a toss-up. I’ll take the Blazers on the road. The Minnesota Timberwolves are for real and will be at the end of a five-game homestand by the time they see the Blazers. Minnesota is rolling right now with wins over the Pelicans, Cavs and Thunder. They’re a tough matchup for Portland. T’Wolves win. Gimme Portland to close out the week on a winning note at home against the Suns. The Blazers go 2-1 this week.
Nate: The Blazers will go 2-1 over the next three games. Portland may miss Anthony Davis for the third time this season when they play the Pelicans on Friday. DeMarcus Cousins has proven to be a handful for the Portland this season, averaging 38.5 points per game, but I think the Blazers newfound offense will be enough to win a crucial game against a team fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers are more talented than the Suns so I’ll pick them to win that matchup as well, although I think it will be close. I don’t expect the Blazers to go into Minnesota and beat the Timberwolves. The last matchup between the two teams was thrilling and I think this one will be as well. But I think Minnesota will once again have too many weapons for the Blazers to overcome.
Jared: I think this team is better than the Pelicans, who aren't playing well right now anyway. They've lost four of six, including to subpar teams like the Grizzlies and Mavericks. The Blazers have been a good road team and I think they'll win in New Orleans. I am impressed with the Timberwolves. I thought they were overrated coming into the season, but I was wrong. They've won 10 of 13, including three consecutive blowout victories against the Pelicans, Cavaliers and Thunder. They are playing well on both ends of the court. I thought defense would be their weakness this season and they started the season looking like that would be the case. But over the past seven games, they've allowed just 94 points per game. I think they’ll beat Portland. Even though it will be the first game back after a difficult road trip, the Blazers should have enough to get past Phoenix, though I don't think it will be an easy win. The Suns have 16 wins and have shown they can rise up and surprise even a good team.
In today's 3-on-3, the KGW sports team is diving into some Blazers trade rumors and discussing whether the Blazers should be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. Questions? Comments? Join the conversation below!Posted by KGW-TV on Thursday, January 11, 2018
If you'd like to submit a Blazers question for our panel to answer during the 3-on-3 podcast, send us an email here.