The Portland Trail Blazers are teetering on the edge. They were among the Western Conference’s hottest teams early in the season. However, they have fallen behind since mid-December. In fact, they have lost 13 of their last 20 games. The Blazers are currently in 12th place in the West, which is not where they want to be. As such, should they be conservative or ultra-aggressive at the trade deadline? Here we will look at the nightmare scenario that the Blazers don’t want to happen as we close in on the 2023 NBA Trade Deadline.

The Blazers, despite a current downturn, remain a dangerous playoff contender. They can be even more dangerous by adding a piece or two at the trade deadline. However, they may have limited options for adding to their roster due to their proximity to the luxury tax threshold. They may only make trades that involve taking on similar or less salary. The Blazers may also not use their trade exceptions worth $6.5 million and $3.3 million due to financial constraints.

Additionally, they owe a first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls, which is protected until 2028. That may complicate any potential trades involving first-round picks. Alternatively, the team may opt for significant changes during the offseason, especially if the pick is conveyed to Chicago this year. This would allow them more flexibility to trade for an All-Star with the use of multiple future picks. However, this would also put them deep in the luxury tax next year, especially with Jerami Grant’s new deal.

Now let’s look at the Blazers’ nightmare scenario for the 2023 NBA trade deadline.

Blazers deal trade Grant for a non-All-Star

The Blazers have greatly improved their defense this season. Of course, to continue to climb the ranks and aim for a top 10 spot, they could benefit from adding a defensive specialist on the wing or a rim protector to complement Jusuf Nurkić. Remember that despite their improvements, the Blazers are still lacking a piece or two to solidify their postseason contention.

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One potential target for Portland is San Antonio’s Josh Richardson. He has averaged 11 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He is also shooting 36.2 percent from beyond the arc. As such, he could be a valuable addition as a sixth to eighth man in the rotation.

Additionally, Portland could target big men like Chicago’s Andre Drummond or Orlando’s Nerlens Noel. Drummond leads the league in total rebound percentage, while Noel is known as a strong rim protector. Either could be a valuable addition to the Blazers’ bench.

Meanwhile, some have pointed to Nassir Little, Shaedon Sharpe, Anfernee Simons, Josh Hart, and Jerami Grant as tradable pieces.

Simons is surely a valuable player. However, in order to significantly improve their chances of winning a championship, the Blazers may need to consider trading him or other key players in a major deal. Sharpe, for his part, also has potential. He sits in a similar situation where the team would only likely trade him as part of a larger deal. The team could also choose to keep its current roster and focus on re-signing Grant and Hart in free agency. However, this strategy is only viable if the team is already guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

On the flip side, holding at the trade deadline is also an option. Of course, this would be more acceptable if the Blazers were already firmly among the top eight or even six teams in the West. This would also discharge their first-round obligation to Chicago and provide the possibility of an offseason deal. This is just not the case right now. Alternatively, the Blazers should use the time between now and the deadline to evaluate how much first-round equity it can fetch back for anybody who is not called Lillard, Simons, or Sharpe.

Jerami Grant should also be on that list. The nightmare scenario here is for the Blazers to trade Grant for a player they feel might round out their roster. Now, unless that player is a borderline All-Star, this kind of move would be tragic for Portland. Keep in mind that Grant is currently averaging 21.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.4 triples per game. Putting him in any non-blockbuster deal would be a big mistake and would set the team back in terms of their Dame timeline once more.

Speaking of that Dame timeline, keep in mind that Lillard signed a significant agreement with the Blazers prior to the season. He is no doubt the centerpiece of the team’s effort to become a contender. Despite their slow start, the Blazers are still only a few games shy of a playoff spot. This means that the club is likely playing with at least some feeling of urgency because Lillard isn’t getting any younger.