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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Blazers made one trade Thursday, a deal that sent forward Noah Vonleh to Chicago to get the team under the luxury tax threshold. With the trade deadline come and gone, it's time to check in on the Blazers with another edition of 3-on-3, a weekly KGW feature.
This week's questions focus on what the Blazers did and didn't do at the deadline, the future of CJ McCollum and predictions for the next four games before the All-Star break.
1. A lot of Blazers fans wanted Portland to make a big trade at the deadline and have been expressing their frustration on social media since the deadline passed. How would you describe the trade deadline in Portland? Are Blazers fans justified in their frustration?
Orlando: If you were hoping for a blockbuster trade, it was a disappointing day. Without a significant shakeup to the roster, most have seen this story before. A playoff appearance as a 6-8 seed and a date with an elite team. I don’t blame fans for being upset about this; the summer of 2016 continues to keep the Blazers in this position. General Manager Neil Olshey made a money move to help balance the books, but trading Noah Vonleh for a player who hasn’t played a game in the league didn’t get the team any closer to a championship. It was a predictable move by the Blazers.
Nate: I think the activity from both sides, the fans and organization, are justified. From a fan’s perspective, it makes sense that they wanted change. The Blazers have shown for nearly three seasons, despite some minor personnel changes, that they are a first-round playoff team. Some fan bases, such as the Pistons, would find that finish acceptable. Of the Blazers’ last 10 playoff appearances, they’ve been eliminated in the first round eight times. Blazers fans are tired of the same result and this roster doesn’t have the talent to get the Blazers back to the conference finals for the first time since 2000. From the front office perspective, I get why they didn’t make a major move. There wasn’t a star player available that would elevate the Blazers into the top half of the Western Conference. Trading one of their bad contracts with a first-round pick may not have been a realistic option. And trading CJ McCollum at the deadline likely wasn’t going to bring back equal talent in return. Trading Vonleh to avoid the luxury tax makes a lot of sense. Beyond that, I don’t think there were realistic deals available that would have satisfied a large segment of Blazers fans.
Jared: Trade deadline day in Portland was boring. Humdrum. To be fair, there was little indication the Blazers were going to make a big move. They'd reportedly cooled on DeAndre Jordan. The only other reports you heard about the Blazers were about potential trades to reduce salary. Not so riveting. Ultimately, reducing salary is what the Blazers did. Moving Vonleh to avoid the luxury tax is smart. Paying the tax doesn't make a lot of sense for a middling playoff team. It will be interesting to see what the Blazers do this summer. They have a bunch of rotation players who are free agents and will want to get paid. Is it any smarter for the Blazers to be a luxury tax team next season? That’s debatable. Blazers fans are justified in feeling however they want to feel. The front office has done little to excite the fan base over the past year. The two main trades they've made during the offseason and at the deadline have been to clear salary. That doesn’t improve the product on the court and it’s not exciting for fans. The Blazers are mediocre and inconsistent. Fans were desperate for something more and they didn't get it. It's OK to be frustrated by that. (Story continues below)
2. On Wednesday, a Blazers source told The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman that CJ McCollum “is not – and never will be – going anywhere.” Do you think the Blazers should entertain the idea of trading McCollum in the future to improve their roster?
Nate: I think it should always be an option, strictly because McCollum is the only Blazers player that presents a great deal of value to the rest of the league. But I think the Blazers should covet McCollum the way they have. You don’t trade a top-30 NBA player just to make a move. The deal needs to make sense for the Blazers and set them on a new trajectory moving forward. A deal like that, if it’s ever available, would most likely be offered in the offseason. So if the Blazers are bounced in the first round of the playoffs again, I think there will be even more chatter about a potential McCollum deal. At the same time, it seems there’s some fans who believe a McCollum deal will automatically fix the Blazers’ situation. That’s certainly not the case.
Jared: At the end of last season, when general manager Neil Olshey was asked if Lillard and McCollum were untouchable in trades, his answer made a lot of sense. "The odds of anything ever coming up of commensurate value is so hard to even fathom," he said. Olshey is right to hold McCollum – and his value to the Blazers – in such high regard. He's a fantastic basketball player. That said, I don't think any player should be considered off-limits. There are better players in the NBA than McCollum. There are players of comparable value who play positions where the Blazers are starving for improvement. Because of that, the Blazers should be flexible in considering the best ways to improve their roster. I’m not saying the Blazers should trade McCollum. I’m just saying their automatic response shouldn’t be “we will never trade him.” If trading McCollum can bring back “commensurate value” at one of the Blazers’ positions of weakness (small forward, to start), that's worth considering. If trading McCollum can help make the Blazers better, the front office should be willing to pull the trigger.
Orlando: This was an interesting report from Joe Freeman. If that statement is true, and McCollum “never will be-going anywhere,” then I like it for the simple fact that the team is taking a strong stance on a player. I don’t think you’re going to get equal value for McCollum, either. It makes sense why his name came up, it would be easy to find interest, but he’s not the problem with this roster. I think you gotta listen to offers, but it’s probably a waste of time if you’re set on him staying.
3. Prediction time! The Blazers play four more games before the All-Star break, against the Hornets (23-30) tonight, the Kings (17-36) on Friday, the Jazz (26-28) on Sunday and the Warriors (41-13) on Wednesday. Which games do the Blazers win and which do they lose?
- Jared: 36-18
- Nate: 35-19
- Orlando: 35-19
Jared: The Blazers will beat the Hornets, Kings and Jazz, but lose to the Warriors. The Hornets aren't a very good team. They're seven games under .500 and the game is at the Moda Center. Even though Portland is playing the second game of a back-to-back Friday on the road against the Kings, who will be playing on three days rest, I'll still pick the Blazers. Sacramento is terrible. The Jazz are a tough call. They're a couple games under .500, but nobody in the NBA is hotter right now. They've won seven in a row, including wins against the Raptors, Warriors and Spurs. But their hot streak is unsustainable. The defense is real. We know that. But they're averaging 114 points during the streak. They're shooting 50 percent from the field and 46 percent form the 3-point line. They will come back to earth at some point. I'm betting it will happen in Portland. Blazers win. The Warriors? Well, they're the champs. They take care of Portland.
Orlando: The Blazers can get back on track this week. Coming home should help them out after an 0-3 road trip against the East. Portland has been good against sub-.500 teams going 17-5 against teams sporting losing records. I think the Blazers' defense keeps the Hornets in check to snap the losing streak. Sacramento is 4-11 in its past 15 games; this is a game the Blazers have to win, and should. The game to watch is Sunday vs. the Jazz, a team that is rolling right now, winning seven straight. They’re averaging nearly 118 points per game during that streak. That is a problem for both the Blazers' defense that has taken a step back and an offense that has only reached 118 points once in the last six games. The Blazers do catch a break with the Jazz moving Rodney Hood who was averaging about 17 points a game. It should be close, but I’ll take the Blazers for the win. At home against the Warriors, that’s an L. It’s a 3-1 type of week.
Nate: I think the Blazers will bounce back from the winless road trip and go 3-1. With a couple of days off to reset, I expect Portland will play well and beat the Hornets handily. And even though it’s a back-to-back and the Blazers have already loss once this year at Sacramento, I think they’ll scrape out a win against the Kings. The Jazz are the hottest team in the NBA right now but I think they’ll fade, like they did earlier this season, and the Blazers will win a pivotal game. The Warriors will take care of business.
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.
WHAT IS 3-ON-3 BLAZERS?
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.
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.
LISTEN TO KGW'S 3-ON-3 BLAZERS PODCAST