After starting 4-8 and having Zach Collins join Jusuf Nurkić on the injured list, it’s widely accepted that the Blazers will make a trade to give themselves a chance of having anywhere near the level of success that they did last year. Dame Lillard is playing out of his mind this year, and with only so many prime years of him left, it’s time for the Blazers to act.
To explore the question of what move Portland should make, we’re going to start by comparing the Blazers’ performance in the first 12 games this year to their marks from last season to look for clues as to what’s lead to their rough start. What jumps out in the image below is how much worse their offense has gotten, with their Offensive Rating dropping 6.5 points per 100 possessions:
As we can see in the quadrants above, last year’s Blazers team was excellent on offense and just below average on defense. This year’s team has actually been slightly better on defense as a team, giving up 0.6 fewer points per 100 possessions, but their offense has fallen from elite to mediocre. They’re now in the dreaded bottom left quadrant, where teams go to die.
The natural next place for analysis is peering into what facet of their offense has declined and caused their fall. Unfortunately, in the image below we can see that Portland has gotten worse in each of the four key offensive effectiveness categories:
The most significant fall has been the reduction in their offensive rebounding rate. That drop off plus their minor increase in turnover rate means that the Blazers are getting less possessions, and ending fewer of them with a shot attempt. What makes that even worse is that their shooting efficiency, shown here as eFG%, has fallen as well, so they’ve also been less effective on the shots that they are taking compared to last year. The cherry on top is that they’re also making less free throws per shot attempt.
Overall, Portland is having less offensive possessions, attempting less shots on those possessions, getting fewer points on from the field goals they take, and making fewer free throws. Yikes. That's indeed how one falls from elite to mediocre.
So what do they do to improve in those categories? What's being used as criteria for finding a trade parter:
The next question that needs to be answered is what do the Blazers have to offer in a trade? The main pieces include:
Based on this inventory, the type of team Portland should partner with is not looking to win this year, could use a young big man (Collins), and would either be interested in adding draft picks or clearing money off their cap.
Based on the above, four players emerged as the Blazers best targets: Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Love, Marcus Morris, and Marvin Williams. These names are not breaking news, which is a good thing. This confirms that they're in the rumor mill for a reason.
The following image compares the four players' performance over the last three seasons to see how they might impact the Blazers offensively:
Gallinari, Love, and Williams all emerge as clear upgrades over who the Blazers have been playing at the 4 recently. Love would provide the biggest spark on the glass, Williams would improve shooting efficiency as a catch and shoot marksman, and Gallinari would be an all around scoring upgrade. Morris would be fine as well, especially compared to the current Blazers rotation, but no clear area of impact emerges compared to the other potential targets.
However, although the players' strengths and skill sets are important, the most valuable thing for the Blazers to evaluate is how these players could affect the scoreboard and lead to more wins. Here, Love and Gallinari stand out for their positive Box Plus-Minus ratings over the last three seasons:
It's clear Portland has some solid options to choose from for who trade for. Two, Williams and Gallinari, would be one year rentals. Gallinari’s the stronger all-around offensive player, but Williams would come at a much cheaper price. Love is on the first year of a four year contract and would require the biggest investment of the three, but because of his rebounding prowess and ability to man the 5, he’s who I would look to acquire with a package of Bazemore, Collins, and two firsts. It’s finally time to bring the local boy home.
Or you could just sign a future hall of fame off the street instead. Stay Me7o.