In the past couple days, trade rumors have been floating around the NBA involving starting Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard C.J. McCollum. McCollum, who is averaging career highs in points, assists, and rebounds this season, is putting together an All-Star worthy first half of the season, and his on-court chemistry with backcourt mate Damian Lillard has never been better. He also just signed a four-year extension this past offseason, which begs the question: why would he be traded?
Well, the short answer is that the Trail Blazers need big men. Portland currently ranks 28th in points allowed, and 26th in rebounds per game. They signed former Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli this past summer, after sustaining a knee injury in late August, he is unlikely to play this season. Al-Farouq Aminu has been hasn’t been great, Noah Vonleh has been struggling with injuries all season, and Ed Davis has been underwhelming after his decent postseason showing last season. Their best big man this current season has been Mason Plumlee, who’s posting career bests in points, rebounds, and blocks (11.2/7.7/1.1). As much of an improvement as these numbers are, they are not All-Star or All-NBA worthy. Also, Plumlee is turning 27 this season—that’s not old by any means, but if these numbers are Plumlee’s “ceiling,” then Portland has a long term problem going forward.
As prolific as Lillard and McCollum have been since McCollum took the starting role last season, trading him would be justifiable. The name that is coming up next the most to his is Philadelphia 76ers big man Nerlens Noel. The sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Noel missed his entire rookie year recovering from knee surgery. In his first full year, he made the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He improved even more in his sophomore campaign, averaging 11.1 points to go along with 8.1 rebounds. However, with the emergence of Joel Embiid (who is putting together a legitimate All-Star and Rookie of the Year case) and the dual presence of Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia’s frontcourt is as crowded as ever. Noel even complained about his lack of playing time; if Noel was a Blazer, though, he would certainly get his fair share of minutes.
According to Basketball Insider’s Steve Kyler, he has “no indication at all” that Portland is going to trade McCollum. I’m not advocating for a trade like that to happen in the future, but it would certainly make sense. The Blazers have a top ten offense, but their defense has been atrocious this season. With the emergence of sixth man Allen Crabbe, trading McCollum for an established frontcourt presence would seemingly make them a more balanced NBA team. Of course, a talent like McCollum is hard to come by—that’s why they signed him to a four-year extension. The only certainty about this topic is that the Blazers absolutely need to make a change some time in the future if they want to be championship contenders.