Nurk returns, Dame drops 61 and Blazers make their first trade of the season
On this week's episode of the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast, we talk about the Blazers trade with the Sacramento Kings, Damian Lillard's 61-point masterpiece, Jusuf Nurkic's return and make predictions for the next three games. We also answer your questions and play another rousing game of Rip It!
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1. The Blazers made their first trade of the season, sending Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings for veteran forward Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel. What are your thoughts on the trade?
Jared: In a vacuum, this trade is fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. The Blazers saved $12 million in luxury tax payments in a season where they're not competing for anything more than a first-round exit from the playoffs. And they did get better. Not by much, but Ariza is a slightly better player than Bazemore, and the other pieces are a push at worst. At the very least, the 6-foot-8 Ariza (with a 7-2 wingspan!) is a true small forward, unlike the 6-4 Bazemore, who was playing out of position at that spot. The trade also improves Portland's ability to make moves this offseason and even into next season. Looking at the big picture, though, this trade is a bit of a letdown considering what Blazers' fans expectations were with Bazemore's expiring contract. The thought was that Portland would use these big expiring contracts at the trade deadline this season to add another star to Portland's roster. Ariza is not a star. It's not really the Blazers' fault that Bazemore performed so poorly or that the value of expiring contracts took a nosedive this season. This is probably the best return Portland could get for Bazemore in this market. But considering expectations for what would happen at this trade deadline were so high, the trade is a little underwhelming.
Orlando: The trade makes a lot of sense for a team that had the highest payroll in the league and is near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Shedding more than $12 million off the books and adding a player like Trevor Ariza who is expected to give you a similar amount of production that Bazemore was giving seems like a decent deal for ownership. We're going to see if the latter is true real soon. This deal doesn't move the needle and likely doesn't make the team better, but it is saving ownership some money. There are still moves to make ahead of the trade deadline and I’m reserving judgment until Feb. 6. This first move felt more like a team becoming a seller and punting on the season. At least Rip City got to witness the Anthony Tolliver game to beat the Hornets. It's too bad Bazemore didn’t work out in Portland, he seemed like the right fit and would flourish in this roster. Sadly, I'm signing off from "Bazemore Island" for the final time this season.
Nate: It doesn't really move the needle for me, positively or negatively. Bazemore's value, mostly because of his poor play, was not as high as we expected when the Blazers traded for him in the offseason. To me, the biggest upside of this trade is perhaps the Blazers could get more value for trading Ariza next year than they could for trading Bazemore this season. At the very least, Ariza provides the Blazers more flexibility in terms of whether they see him as a fit on next year's roster or not. If they don't, they can cut him in the offseason with minimal financial penalties. If he plays well down the stretch and Portland decides to keep him next season, then they once again have a movable expiring contract and potentially a helpful role player. Portland also created a $7 million trade exception, but as we know from the past, that doesn't necessarily mean Olshey will use it.