If you believe the rumors, general manager Joe Cronin has been busy since the Portland Trail Blazers’ season ended two months ago. According to multiple sources, the new general manager has actively requested the availability of players who he hopes will complement Damian Lillard and likely returning free agents Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic.
Portland’s first-round draft pick will be Cronin’s best leverage to get his dream additions. Two trade targets mentioned repeatedly in recent weeks have been Toronto Raptors winger OG Anunoby and Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins.
While the Hawks seem keen on leaving Collins, the Raptors and their championship-winning president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri have yet to comment on whether Anunoby can actually be obtained. The Blazers have also been linked to Jerami Grant of the Detroit Pistons and Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, but for the purposes of this piece, let’s look at Collins and Anunoby, the top options playing in the need positions.
Lillard and Simons will almost certainly make up the starting backcourt next season – despite the latter being set to hit restricted free agency. Nurkic is also a good bet to return as the team’s starting center, entering free agency after serving the final two months of the most recent season.
And while it looks like disgruntled Ayton could be on his way to Arizona, he could cost more than the Blazers could offer. Yes, Nurkic could possibly be used in a double sign and traded for Ayton, but that type of deal can’t even be discussed until July 1.
Before we go any further, let’s just recap the relevant scuttlebut surrounding Collins and Anunoby, both taken in the 2017 draft at picks 19 and 23 respectively. That’s right, the infamous night the Blazers traded picks 15 and 20 to the Sacramento Kings for pick 10 and Zach Collins. Had they kept both picks, they could have taken the pair five years ago. Ugh.
But let’s move on.
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer first reported Portland’s interest in Anunoby three weeks ago, expanding on said whispers days later on his Please Don’t Aggregate This podcast.
“Regardless of whether the Raptors have been interested in moving him or whatever, Portland has been described to me repeatedly as the team that is really trying to go and make inroads to add OG Anunoby via their exception. commercial to pair him up with Damian Lillard.”
Portland’s interest in Collins was first whispered earlier this month and received real oxygen last week when Fischer revealed on the Dunc’d On podcast that the Hawks big man was on the radar. from Portland.
“He was definitely mentioned as a trade candidate in Portland. I don’t know if this has been discussed, I want to be clear, but it’s something that people have told me something has a very high probability.
I’ve already explained my rationale for Anunoby and all the possibilities open to the Blazers if they land him, but it doesn’t hurt to rehash.
He’s 24 on one of the most team-friendly deals in the league: $18 million a year over the next three seasons. At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, he’s all the Blazers need in the small forward since parting ways with Nicolas Batum. He became one of the best defensive end in the league, able to skillfully hold positions one through four and, in some cases, five.
The British-born athlete is only beginning to find his feet on the offensive side, able to facilitate and score at all three levels and still years from his basketball prime.
On offense, he has averaged 14.5 shots and 17.1 points on 36% three-point shooting, 5.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists on 20.5% use this season. A huge improvement over his career 10.4 points on 37% three-point shooting, 4.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists on 16.4% use.
Collins received his current deal as one of many Hawks, Oprah-style, after the team made an unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Like Portland’s own Conference Finals appearance in 2019, it appeared the team had jumped the shark prematurely, assuming they had all the pieces they needed to fight.
Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk has since bravely admitted that mistake and, as a result, may seek to undo some of last summer’s impulsive decisions by potentially parting with the money for a lesser return – similarly. that Portland did in February.
Collins’ four-year, $100 million deal appears to be one of the first contracts to be negotiated. Not necessarily because he’s not a solid player, but his deal might be the quickest way out of hell.
There has been talk of Portland parting ways with the seventh pick to secure Collins, but given Atlanta’s current situation, that pick might be able to help the Blazers in another deal.
The 6’9 Collins is an athletic power forward, known for his highlight-worthy dunks and above-average long-range shooting for his size. Sadly, the Wake Forest product isn’t renowned for his defense, but he’s not that great and with the naked eye he’s shown his ability to defend on that side of the ball.
Injuries have plagued much of Collins’ recent season, averaging 16.2 points on 36 percent on three, 7.8 boards, 1.8 assists and 1 block in 54 games. However, his career numbers are still impressive for the 24-year-old who posted 16.5 points on 37% three-point shooting, 8.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1 block.
Alright, now before I start poking holes in this, I want to be clear that this is the best way for me, personally, to see the Blazers get both players, while making sure their business partners are satisfied.
So without further ado.
Portland receives: OG Anunoby, John Collins
Portland sends: 7th pick, 36th pick, 2025 Bucks pick, Josh Hart, Trendon Watford, Keon Johnson
Adds $23.6 million
Toronto receives: 7th Pick, Clint Capela, Josh Hart, Trendon Watford
Toronto sends: OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr.
Atlanta receives: 36th pick, 2025 Bucks pick, Gary Trent Jr., Keon Johnson
Atlanta sends: John Collins, Clint Capela
$23.2 million cut
Toronto relieves congestion at the starting forward position created by the arrival of Scottie Barnes last season, sending Anunoby to Portland. Former Blazer Trent Jr. is heading to Georgia. In return, Toronto gets the seventh pick and the opportunity to sign a very promising young player in its core.
Toronto also gets the center they’ve been looking for in Capela, who currently has a relatively team-friendly contract. Hart is an upgrade from Trent Jr. as a shot-stopper and Watford will no doubt continue to grow on his small, team-controlled contract over the next few years.
From five: Fred VanVleet, Josh Hart, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Clint Capela
(with the seventh choice and Watford coming off the bench)
Atlanta is reversing the self-proclaimed mistakes they made after the team’s 2021 Eastern Conference Finals campaign. They’re escaping luxury tax hell, saving more than $23 million and opening themselves up to other moves the same way the Blazers did at the February trade deadline.
Yes, they’re moving their two starting big men, but the Hawks are also clearing a lead for young big Onyeka Okongwu while potentially tackling Rudy Gobert who they’ve signaled interest in. Atlanta gets the protected first round from Milwaukee in 2025, which might be more appealing than first thought as the Bucks continue to age. Not to mention Portland’s second-round pick this year. Atlanta also hosts first-rounder Keon Johnson and Trent Jr in 2021, who might be the best Trae Young complement they’ve had thanks to his low usage, 3 and D skills.
From five: Trae Young, Gary Trent Jr., Bogdan Bogdanovic, Deandre Hunter, Onyeka Okongwu
(and whoever else they hang with their more flexible pay sheet).
As for Portland, the Blazers have two young starters poised to hit their peaks while giving up young talent, picks and Hart who has emerged as a solid starter/rotation player.
By adding Anunoby, the Blazers get the offensive point defender they desperately need from Wesley Matthews. He can also help cover defensive gaps in the backcourt of Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons. Collins adds athleticism, shooting and still untapped defensive potential – a glove-like fit next to Jusuf Nurkic.
They still have access to mid-level and semi-annual exceptions to fill the bench, which will likely be used to insert bench facilitation and another big behind Nurkic with Nassir Little and Justise Winslow still on the roster. I find it very difficult to see Eric Bledsoe on the team next season with his guaranteed $3.9 million waived or dealt with in another trade.
From five: Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, OG Anunoby, John Collins, Jusuf Nurkic
It looks like the Blazers aren’t playing ghost games this summer. If you believe the pundits, they’re making bold and aggressive calls on players they hope will improve this roster next season and into the future.
Anunoby and Collins are two names that could very well put the Blazers in contention next season, assuming Lillard returns to form and Nurkic and Simons return to free agency. We don’t know if the two can be done, but the above deal could be a possible way for Cronin to make it happen.