PORTLAND, Ore. — The regular season hasn't even started yet. The trade deadline is still about four months away. So naturally, NBA pundits are projecting the Trail Blazers' next big trade.
The idea is a little early for consumption, but it does make some sense. The Blazers, with championship aspirations, large expiring contracts, and valuable trade assets (future draft picks and talented young players like Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little), seem primed to make a big trade at some point this season.
As Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer wrote in his first NBA power rankings of the season, "This is a year for Neil Olshey to go all in."
Various NBA media members have been pushing Portland native Kevin Love to the Blazers in suggested trades for months. On Monday, O'Connor threw several more names into the trade idea bin for the Blazers.
"So far in this season-preview series, I’ve mentioned the following players as possible trade pieces: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge," O'Connor wrote. "Blazers fans would do cartwheels down the streets of Portland if Woj reports any of those guys are on the trade block."
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While NBA experts dream of new power forwards being added to the Blazers roster, the team is busy preparing for Wednesday night's season opener. Portland welcomes the Denver Nuggets, last season's second-round foe, for a playoff rematch. The game tips off at 7 p.m. and airs on ESPN.
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Here's a look at how the Blazers fared in the latest batch of power rankings.
Editor's note: ESPN, The Athletic and Sports Illustrated didn't publish updated rankings. The Blazers were ranked No. 9 by The Athletic, No. 10 by ESPN and No. 11 by Sports Illustrated.
The Ringer: Blazers rank No. 8
What they wrote: Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum need a boost, and Portland has the necessary salary fillers (Hassan Whiteside and Kent Bazemore) and the assets (Nassir Little, Zach Collins, future picks) to complete an impact trade. Dame and CJ are small, so it would make sense for that player to be a forward or a big. So far in this season-preview series, I’ve mentioned the following players as possible trade pieces: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Blazers fans would do cartwheels down the streets of Portland if Woj reports any of those guys are on the trade block. This is a year for Neil Olshey to go all in.
The Blazers should be a playoff team even without a deal. They have lots of talent, continuity, and a good coach. This summer, they improved their shooting by trading Evan Turner for Bazemore and retaining Rodney Hood instead of Al-Farouq Aminu or Moe Harkless. I’m also quite high on Anfernee Simons, whom I recently wrote about as a potential breakout player. Simons gives the Blazers the bench scoring spark they lacked.
The margin for error is so slim in the West that one turned ankle or one losing streak can cause a team to miss the playoffs. But the Blazers are equipped to be good again, and they’re close to being great. — Kevin O'Connor
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 10 (down 1)
What they wrote: Defense is probably going to be an issue for the Blazers (at least until Jusuf Nurkic returns), given the lack of size in the backcourt, the departures of last season's starting forwards, and Hassan Whiteside's tendency to lose focus on that end of the floor. But the offense could hold up, especially if Anfernee Simons is the real deal. There were a few too many early-clock, pull-up, mid-range jumpers in his preseason arsenal, but with a quick and confident release, he shot 11-for-22 from beyond the arc. Their game against the Nuggets on Wednesday will be a good test of the Blazers' 18-year winning streak in home openers, and it's followed by a stretch where they play six of seven on the road. — John Schuhmann
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 12 (down 1)
What they wrote: Hassan Whiteside already has a banged-up ankle, which isn't great for a team looking to build chemistry early in the season. If Whiteside is limited, Zach Collins could end up starting at center, or at least getting the bulk of the minutes, which is probably how the season will wind up anyway. Kent Bazemore has fit in nicely, but this is obviously going to be the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum show all year long. — Colin Ward-Henninger