Some of the biggest moves that we will likely see at this trade deadline have just occurred, as while Caris LeVert being traded to the Cavaliers was the biggest trade, it isn’t anymore, and it’s not even close. CJ McCollum has been traded to the New Orleans Pelicans, and this has a significant impact on both the Blazers and the Pelicans. Let’s break down this trade.
The Official Trade: Along with McCollum, Larry Nance Jr and Tony Snell are on their way to New Orleans in exchange for Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a top-four protected first-round pick, and two second-round picks.
Let’s start by looking at the Pelicans point of view. For them, this trade is a no-brainer. It’s not like New Orleans gets lots of All-Star talent coming to their team; their four best players in the past decade, Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis, were all either drafted by the Pelicans or traded for. Getting McCollum gives the Pelicans a veteran presence in the backcourt, and a very skilled player who knows how to get a bucket. McCollum has never officially been named an All-Star, but he’s been on that border for the last few years. Even better is that the Pelicans didn’t have to give up Ingram in order to get McCollum, so now the team has a fun big three: McCollum, Ingram, and Williamson.
It’s clear GM David Griffin did this move for two reasons: one, to save his job, and two, to help entice Williamson to stay longer. It’s clear Griffin is on the hot seat, and that he needed to make a trade. So, he made a trade that will get fans excited, and hopefully get Williamson excited about the team as well. If Williamson comes back sometime within the next few weeks, then it means that he’s had complete control about sitting out from the beginning, and is coming back because he wants to. While I don’t want to believe that, I’m worried it’s true, so we’ll have to see how that plays out.
Even if this was a trade made to keep a star player happy and save the GM’s job, I really like it. McCollum’s a great fit for the Pelicans, and Nance is a solid pickup. If Williamson comes back, the team has a solid big three, and has a chance to make the play-in, and fight for a playoff spot. I would love to see this big three go up against the big three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook, or the dynamic duo of Karl-Anthony Towns–Anthony Edwards. For this trade, I’m giving the Pelicans an A-.
Now, let’s look at the Blazers point of view. It’s been made clear that the Blazers have traded McCollum, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington so that they can completely reshape the team’s roster around Lillard. The Blazers have a $21 million trade exception, and potentially up to around $60 million in cap space over the summer, which means one thing: the Blazers are going after All-Stars to pair with Lillard.
In theory this sounds like a great plan, but I am somewhat skeptical. Even though the former General Manager, Neil Olshey is gone, the Blazers have a reputation of not getting enough value for their players. Look at what they did with Covington and Powell. Those two players, who are both solid contributors to any team, were traded for Eric Bledsoe, Keon Johnson, Justise Winslow, and a 2025 second-round pick. This is much less than both of those players are worth together; Covington is one of the best defenders in the league and Powell is a proven scorer. Bledsoe is an old point guard, Johnson hasn’t proven himself in the NBA yet, and Winslow is just another role player. I’m saying this in a polite, filtered way because I’m not a die-hard Blazers fan; if you want some unfiltered opinions about the Clippers-Blazers trade, I suggest you go to the Portland Trail Blazers Subreddit and see some of the comments.
Before Powell was traded to the Clippers, he was traded from the Raptors for Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood. Looking back, it’s clear the Blazers gave up too much to get Powell, as Trent Jr has emerged as a near 20-point per game scorer, and is significantly younger.
So, while the Blazers plan looks amazing in theory, what are the chances they execute it the way they’re supposed to? In addition to picking up new assets, Lillard isn’t playing the rest of the year, meaning that the Blazers can tank and hopefully get a top pick in this year’s draft. The 2022 NBA Draft Class is loaded, and if the Blazers can get a top three pick in addition to another All-Star, they will be loaded for years to come! Unfortunately, I’m worried the Blazers will play their way out of the play-in, but not horribly enough to land a top pick.
I’m giving the Blazers an A+ for what could happen if they play the offseason right, and a C- if they screw this up. I don’t know whether to believe Lillard is committed to this team for any longer or not. The Blazers are lucky they’ve had him for this long, and if they want to reward his loyalty, they have to do him right this offseason. If they do get that top draft choice and an All-Star or two this offseason, then this was totally the right move, and I could legitimately see the Trail Blazers winning a championship in 2023. I know that’s an outlandish statement, but if management is competent and plays their cards right, they could end up with a full house.
I often have thoughts about trades that differ from the mainstream media1, but that’s what makes reading people’s takes exciting. So, what are your thoughts on this trade? Let me know in the comments below, don’t forget to follow the NBA Blog, and as always, have an awesome day!