It hasn’t quite been the season that Portland expected. Coming off a trip to the conference finals in last year’s playoffs, the Blazers stumbled to a 5-12 start, signed free-agent forward Carmelo Anthony in mid-November and leveled out thereafter—Portland is 13-13 since November 25.
Still, even with Anthony, it has not been enough to get the Blazers comfortably back into the mix of Western Conference playoff teams. Portland is 2.5 games out of the No. 8 seed in the West, which means the team still has a chance at a run to the postseason.
But the eighth seed and a likely first-round loss is the best Portland can hope for. Considering the team entered the year with a payroll near $150 million, well over the league’s $132 million luxury tax threshold, that’s a poor return on investment.
With that in mind, the Blazers dealt away wing Kent Bazemore to Sacramento on Saturday, packaging him with Anthony Tolliver for veteran Trevor Ariza and young players Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel. The deal was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The deal cuts about $6 million in salary from the Blazers’ payroll and drops their expected luxury-tax payment by $12 million. The Blazers would like to pare off more but it’s unlikely that they can get completely under the threshold.
Portland may still be in the midst of a disappointing year, but at least it will be less expensive.
Blazers Roster & Projected Starting Lineup After Trade
C: Hassan Whiteside
PF: Carmelo Anthony
SF: Trevor Ariza
SG: C.J. McCollum
PG: Damian Lillard
C: Skal Labissiere, Caleb Swanigan, Jusuf Nurkic (I)
F: Mario Hezonja, Nassir Little, Jaylen Hoard, Wenyen Gabriel, Zach Collins (I), Rodney Hood (I)
G: Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr.
Trail Blazers Wracked by Injuries All Year
Portland has had to withstand an especially injury-plagued season that has cost them three starters, including center Jusuf Nurkic, who broke his leg last March. Forward Zach Collins played only three games before having surgery on his shoulder in early November. Small forward Rodney Hood tore his Achilles tendon in December.
The good news is that Nurkic could be back within a month. He has targeted mid-February as his return date and with the All-Star game landing on February 16, it’d make sense to bring him back after that. On January 1, Nurkic tweeted out his excitement about getting back to the game.
Collins could be back, too. The original timetable for a return was four months, which would mean he could begin playing in March. He has been eager to return because he knew that Portland was expecting this to be a big season for Collins. He averaged 9.0 points in three games before the injury hit.
He’s still hoping to be back.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Collins told the Oregonian. “That was one of the biggest reasons that I didn’t want to do the surgery, because I would have been out almost all year. I ended up obviously doing the surgery and I have no regrets, but it was tough just knowing that it was supposed to be a big year for me. The organization put a lot of faith in me, being the starting four and now, they don’t have that. It just kind of put the team in a tough spot.”
Hood won’t be back this season. He likely won’t be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season, either.