The Portland Trail Blazers have a $7.2 million and a $1.7 milion TPE (traded player exception) from the Sacramento trade last season when they sent Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, and 2 future second round picks to the Kings for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel. Both exceptions expire in January.
The Blazers can trade for a player making up to $7.2 million without sending out a player. Options are however somewhat limited, as there are few players making that amount. The Blazers can take a lesser contract. There are several options of players around $5 million or less the Blazers could get. There are several players in that salary level that are on rookie contracts and won’t be traded.
Here are the top 10 player targets for the Blazers TPE
10. Victor Poirier
The French seven footer could be an inexpensive replacement if Whiteside leaves. He is set to make $2.6 million next season. He was underused on a Boston team that had one of the smallest rotations in the league. His last season in Euroleague, he averaged 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. He was 5th in the league in PER, at 23.1 with a true shooting percentage of 63.8%.
Poirier is an apt pick and roller who puts his work in at the rim fighting for offensive rebounds on the glass. He is an apt scorer and able passer. His lack of ability to hit long jumpers or threes hurts, but his capability to attack the rim with a sheer explosiveness is a plus.
9. JaVale Mcgee
Ugh, let’s try to get past the fact he is a Laker. He is certainly on the outs there, losing his starting spot in the playoffs to Dwight Howard. With the Lakers looking to clear space to bring in some improvements, they might be willing to part with Mcgee, especially if they don’t have to take anything back.
The 16 year veteran may be towards the end of his journey, and he has never played a full 82 game season, but maybe he still has something left in the tank.
Back when he played with Golden State, winning two of his three rings, his fast breaking, energizer bunny explosiveness to the rim for alley oops and rebounds made me wish he was a Blazer. I am sure I am not the only one. He had some of that oomph still with the Lakers. A team like the Blazers might be a better atmosphere to find that element of his game again.
He is still just 32, with valuable championship experience. His is owed $4.2 million for next season. At his best with LA, he averafed 12 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game.
8. ersan Ilyasova
Another savvy 16 year veteran (Well 14 as he didn’t play in the league in the 2007-08 or 2008-09 seasons), Ilyasov is a versatile big man who shoots well (36%) from three, can pull up almost from anywhere, and can also attack the basket. While he isn’t the best rebounder he is capable.
He isn’t a great defender either, which the Blazers need, so that hurts is stock a bit. But, he can be a consistent shooter and can be a sixth man type player off the bench for Portland. He is owed right at $7 million next season.
7. MO BAMBA
Bamba is the player that could be. His value lies in his potential. He has only played two seasons and is still very young. His first season was mired with a fractured leg that ended it for him.
He brought some of the anticipated rim protection and ability to score in the paint, but he lacked the muscle to have the needed physicality to play successfully as a big man at the NBA level. He also brought questions about drive.
With a humble and patient outlook, he worked diligently to put on the needed muscle and ascertain focus he was missing for his second season. But, after a summer league injury he took a step back and then the season stalled with the pandemic and he got covid and was unable to play in the restart.
As a Blazer fan his injury proness makes me weary and it should give the Blazers front office pause to with such much injury trouble in Portlands past. But, Bamva should not be counted out. He has all the ingredients to become a solid big man in this league, he just hasn’t gotten there yet.
May Orlando is ready to move on. He is due to maje $5.9 million next season with a $7.5 million team option for 2021-22. He is a risk, but it could be a calculated one that pays off for the Blazers if they can get him.
If the Blazers are looking to use the TPE on a back up point guard, 15 year veteran journey man Ish Smith could be a target. While his career shooting is suspect, he shot career highs from both the three (36%) and overall (48%) last season.
If you looked up back up point guard in the dictionary, you might well find Smith’s picture next to it. He is as speedy as he ever was an his experienced basketball IQ is exactly what the doctor ordered. He can break down defenses and get off crazy shots (his form is as about as pretty as a yo mama joke but if it goes in hey) and he knows how to run a 2nd unit. He has curved his knack to turn the ball over, and can be the anchor the Blazers need off the bench. He is set to make $6.1 million next season.
5. Frank Ntilikina
The Blazers who have resorted to using CJ McCollum to run the bench could really use a back up point guard. The Blazers could go after Ntilikina’s teammate Dennis Smith who is set to make $5.6 million next season, but Ntilikina would be the better option for Portland.
Ntilikina is set to make $6.1 million next season. While Smith may be a stronger and more explosive scorer, Ntilikina is an assertive defender who can lock down opponents, something Portland needs off the bench badly. He is also a decent three point shooter (31%). Too, the Knicks with a packed back court are more likely to want to keep Smith. Ntilikina is a young 21 and still hasn’t reached his full potential. He is quite possibly a diamond in the rough. I hear Okshey likes those.
4. RashAun Holmes
Rashsun Holmes was probably one of the only good things Vlade Divac did while in the front office in Sacramento. Holmes is a poor mans Montrezl Harrell. He is that same type of kinetic player. He is a pest for oppponents and a beast on the pick and roll who can finish above the rim like there is no tomorrow.
While his overall shooting (36%) is corcerning is an able three point shooter (shooting a career best 32% last season). A big guy that can do a bit of everything is handy to have around. His level of energy and diligence mostly cancel out his negatives.
Montrez Harrell is on the market, but will be commanding more than Portland would want to and maybe even could offer. If you can’t get Harrell, why not get the next best thing. Sacramento is packed in the front court and might be willing to let Holmes go. The Blazers might have to throw in a 2nd rnd pick or two to sway them.
3. John Collins
OK, this one is not going to happen, but wouldn’t it be nice. The Blazers missed out on John Collins in the 2017 draft, trading up for Zach Collins. John has proved to be one of the best big men out of that draft, progressing each of his first three years in the league. Last year before getting injured, he averaged 21.6 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game.
A highly active big man who fights tooth and nail for rebounds, is explosive and dominant around the rim, Collins also shot 40% from three. He is a wet dream for Portland.
He is unfortunately a pillar of Atlanta’s future as they continue to rebuild. Next season will be the last one his rookie contract at $4.1 million. Collins is not a realistic option, but he is on this list because he would be perfect.
2. Jonathan Isaac
Another one that probably won’t happen. The Magic are unlikely to trade the young up and coming Isaac, but the Power Forward suffered two injuries including one to his knee that ended his season and Orlando might decide to pass the risk on. Probably not, but he is exactly the type of player who would thrive in Portland.
The versatile, defensive rooted big man would be a great fit off Portland’s bench. He is another energy driven player with a powerful explosiveness. He has a keen eye and fast legs for beating defenders to the basket. He also shot 34% from three in a season shortened for him by injuries. Another risk, but one Portland would be willing to take.
1. Nemanja Bjelica
Kings big man Nemanja Bjelica, the former Euroleague star is probably the Blazers best target for the TPE that has a realistic chance of happening. Bjelica has been an efficient sharp shooter for Sacramento. The Blazers could use his ability to space the floor.
He isn’t terribly athletic and his slow feet can hamper him, especially on a fast tempo team like the Blazers. He played well as a trailer on the fast break, shooting his best from the top of the key off the pass. He is a solid NBA stretch four who would fit seamlessly into Portland’s bench.
Could you imagine a McCollum, Trent Jr, Hood, Bjelica, Collins second unit? I could! He is set to make $7.1 million next season. It might require some finessing, but a front court heavy Sacramento might consider it.