The Portland Trail Blazers have traded for Hassan Whiteside with Mo Harkless and Meyers Leonard going back to the Heat, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Whiteside has underperformed since signing a massive deal with the Heat and the Blazers are hoping that a change of scenery can help his production.
Here is a look at the Blazers roster and projected starting lineup after the trade. Keep in mind that the roster will likely look different after free agency is completed.
Blazers Roster & Projected Starting Lineup for 2019-20
C: Hassan Whiteside, Jusuf Nurkic*
PF: Zach Collins, Jake Layman, Skal Labissiere, Jaylen Hoard
SF: Kent Bazemore, Nassir Little, Gary Trent Jr.
SG: CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood
PG: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons
*Nurkic is recovering from a broken leg and is expected to miss the start of the 2019-20 season.
The move gives the Blazers another piece to add to their roster as Jusuf Nurkic continues to recover from a serious injury. Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes detailed why the Whiteside trade made sense for the Blazers.
“Neil Olshey, Trail Blazers president of basketball operations, with some incredible moves this offseason. Adding Hassan Whiteside to the mix without giving up a core piece is masterful. Portland is a real championship contending force,” Haynes tweeted.
Whiteside has not lived up to his four-year, $98 million deal, but the good news for the Blazers is that it expires after next season. The big man will make $27.09 million during 2019-20 and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, per Spotrac.
Jusuf Nurkic Making “Great Progress” in His Rehab
The big question for the Blazers is how Whiteside fits next to Nurkic once he returns from injury. Nurkic is recovering from a broken left leg and is making “great progress,” per The Athletic.
Olshey said Nurkic is “making great progress” from his broken left leg, suffered March 25 in a game against Brooklyn, however he was reluctant to place any timetable on the center’s return next season.
“So far, he’s on a great trajectory in terms of returning to play … but we are not going to sacrifice anything in his recovery and (physical therapy) just to get him on the court faster,” Olshey said.
The Athletic also estimated Nurkic could return between January and February of 2020.
If I were to guess, the target date for Nurkic to return would be late January, early February, meaning the Blazers will have to play more than half of the season without their standout center. And even when he returns, the severity of his injury — compound fractures to his tibia and fibula that required surgery to insert a metal rod — indicates he will likely need time to get back to his dominant self.
The Blazers have two promising young players in second-year guard Anfernee Simons and rookie forward Nassir Little. Simons is said to be a major trade target but the Blazers have hung onto him so far. The athletic guard could see the floor more for the Blazers this season.