PORTLAND, Ore. — The NBA trade deadline is March 25 and the Portland Trail Blazers are being mentioned in the rumor mill that inevitably pops up each year before the deadline.
Portland continues to be linked to former Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge. In the latest report, Sam Amick of The Athletic said that Aldridge is more likely to be traded than reach the buyout market. “Interested GMs have been told that there are five teams firmly in the mix,” Amick wrote, though he didn’t name the five teams.
If Aldridge does reach the buyout market, the Blazers, along with the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics, are expected to be the “leading suitors” to sign the seven-time All-Star, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Aldridge, 35, is averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds this season.
Charania also reported that the Blazers, along with the Minnesota Timberwolves, have shown interest in Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Charania reports that Orlando has “been open to listening to calls on Gordon.”
Gordon, a 6-foot-8, 25-year-old forward, is averaging 13.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game this season.
In other Blazers news, CJ McCollum told The Athletic’s Jason Quick that he expects to return to the lineup this week, though he was less clear on which game. McCollum hasn’t played since he broke his left foot on Jan. 16 against the Atlanta Hawks.
The Blazers play three more games this week: Tuesday and Thursday against the New Orleans Pelicans and Friday against the Dallas Mavericks. Portland plays the Mavericks again Sunday and finish a five-game homestand next Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets.
Here’s a look at how the Blazers fared in the latest batch of NBA power rankings:
ESPN: Blazers rank No. 9 (down 1)
What they wrote: Carmelo Anthony's re-resurgence has been delightful, with him averaging 21.2 points on stellar percentages this month. He's hitting big shots and adding the kind of offensive punch the Blazers need off the bench. He should get some votes for Sixth Man of the Year. However, the numbers still don't entirely favor him, with the Blazers almost nine points per 100 possessions worse when he plays. — Royce Young
The Athletic: Blazers rank No. 12 (down 2)
What they wrote: What’s the realistic goal? Make the second round. Perhaps with how loaded the Western Conference is, the Portland Trail Blazers getting out of the first round of the playoffs seems like a lofty goal. Of course, if you believe in this team when it’s healthy, getting CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back will raise the bar for what we expect from the Blazers. Damian Lillard has done a phenomenal job of keeping things together, and Carmelo Anthony has been great recently. The Blazers survived a tough stretch of injuries and have found ways to actually thrive. But the road ahead of them in the West looks like it’s full of landmines. Do they need an acquisition to accomplish that? They probably need another defensive guy. With Nurkic and Collins back, the defense should improve quite a bit, especially if it allows Robert Covington to zero in on assignments and play better than what we’ve seen from him. But the Blazers still need another wing guy to help cut off the paint and challenge 3-point looks. Derrick Jones Jr. can do that some, but they need as much defensive help as possible. — Zach Harper
NBA.com: Blazers rank No. 12 (down 2)
What they wrote: Carmelo Anthony continues to have big games off the bench, Enes Kanter continues to grab offensive rebounds, and Damian Lillard continues to be Damian Lillard. Robert Covington (10-for-17 from 3-point range since the break) is on a hot streak. But the Blazers are splitting two-game series with the Timberwolves (with both games going down to the wire) because they can’t get stops. They ranked 28th defensively before the break and they rank 30th defensively since the break, having allowed almost 123 points per 100 possessions over three games. The Portland starting lineup (though it gave up a lob dunk five seconds into their loss to Phoenix on Thursday) has been solid enough defensively. But the Blazers have allowed 258 points on 199 defensive possessions (130 per 100) with at least one reserve on the floor over the break. With Kanter their only center, the Blazers just don’t have any rim protection, an issue that Minnesota exploited for 46 buckets in the restricted area over the weekend. The second quarter on Sunday was just a parade to the rim. And now the Blazers play two games against the guy setting a record for most points per game in the restricted area. — John Schuhmann
CBS Sports: Blazers rank No. 13 (down 4)
What they wrote: The Blazers lost to the Suns before splitting a back-to-back with the Wolves in Minnesota to close out the week. Damian Lillard averaged 31 points and 7.3 assists on 40 percent 3-point shooting, with Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. providing supplemental scoring, but it simply wasn't enough. The good news is CJ McCollum, who was having a career year before fracturing his foot, said he would "bet on" coming back some time this week. — Colin Ward-Henninger