Houston Rockets – Team #3: Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers over the past half-decade have tried in vain to become real contenders but poor roster construction has held them back. Damian Lillard is one of the best offensive players in the league but is a porous defender.
CJ McCollum is a good offensive player but, he too is porous on defense. Outside of swinging a trade for Rudy Gobert, there is no real way for the Trail Blazers to start that backcourt and have an above-average defense.
Flipping McCollum and Zach Collins, for salary purposes, for Victor Oladipo and PJ Tucker would solve all of those problems. Oladipo is the perfect backcourt complement to Lillard and Tucker would help absorb the minutes that the corpse of Carmelo Anthony has been soaking up.
Oladipo is not the same offensive player as Lillard but he knows how to play off the ball and can handle the opposing team’s most difficult defensive assignments. The pressure on Lillard on both ends of the court will lessen and with PJ Tucker in the fold, the team’s 27th ranked defense will surely see improvement.
The part of this trade that will draw the most ire from Trail Blazer fans, might actually be the reason why this trade makes the most sense for them. CJ McCollum, unlike Tucker and Oladipo, is not on an expiring contract and is set to make $129.3 million over the next four seasons.
The Trail Blazers, by making this trade, will shed $30.8 million off of their ledger for next season, which would allow them to be a real player for free agents. If Oladipo plays well in Portland and wants to stay then they’ll have plenty of space to keep him around as well.
The Rockets snagging CJ McCollum goes against their trend of cutting payroll but it does give them a quality NBA scorer to build around their current core. The Rockets might want to tank but they have little incentive to do so now because most of their upcoming picks are still in the OKC Thunder’s hands.
McCollum has started the season incredibly hot and has looked like peak Stephen Curry over his first 11 games. He is averaging 26.7 points and 5 assists per game while taking 11 3-pointers and making 44.1-percent of them.
This hot stretch won’t continue but it is an affirmation that McCollum when he’s on, is an offensive force. Unfortunately, his defense remains poor and is the reason he’s never been an All-Star or All-NBA selection.
This trade makes the Trail Blazers better on the court this year and better in the ledger next. The Rockets get a player under contract to build around as the franchise stands pat and waits to determine its future direction.
Next: Team 2