The Portland Trail Blazers have been experiencing one of the worst cases of the injury bug imaginable. Jusuf Nurkic is out for potentially the entire season since his gruesome leg break, Rodney Hood recently tore his left Achilles, Zach Collins still has over a month until he is reevaluated after having shoulder surgery, and Skal Labissiere went down for weeks recently.
The Blazers now have one player taller than 6-foot-8 — starting center Hassan Whiteside – Jason Quick of The Athletic
Nevertheless, Portland is currently sitting just one and a half games out of the 8 seed in the Western Conference that is currently controlled by the San Antonio Spurs. Carmelo Anthony made his NBA-return and gave some life to a Portland team where anyone not named Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum has struggled.
Offense was the clear intended strength of this roster heading into the season, and they let plenty of defense walk out the door in the form of Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu in order to strengthen the other side of the floor. Hassan Whiteside has been impactful, yet characteristically inconsistent.
Portland is looking to win games, they should be obvious buyers at the upcoming deadline, and while the surefire sellers are difficult to identify, the holes that the Trail Blazers will be looking to fill are clear. Zach Collins was the only true power forward on the roster and he will be gone for an extended period of time. Wing defense is the other target as the Western Conference is filled with elite versatile forwards such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Paul George.
Nemanja Bjelicia would add promising versatility to the Blazers’ offense and spaces the floor practically to the logo. Bjelicia is currently shooting 42% from three on the season and is a traditional 4, something that Portland is lacking.
Bjelicia’s current home, Sacramento, may not be looking to shop him at the moment as they are competing with Portland for the final seeds in the Western Conference, but that could change should the Kings continue to underperform and fall out of the race.
Bjelicia is a discount version of Kevin Love — who Portland is also linked to — all offense and no defense. Bjelicia is a more well-rounded offensive player than many give him credit for and he would be of great benefit to a Portland roster that is not all too far off from becoming an offensive powerhouse.
For the second target, let’s take more of a defensive focus. Marcus Morris of the New York Knicks is a trade target for many teams throughout the association and a well-rounded wing with size. He can guard the likes of Leonard and LeBron should Portland see one of the Los Angeles teams in a playoff series and Marcus Morris is boosing his value tremendously by shooting 45% from three on the year on nearly 6 attempts per game.
Kent Bazemore’s expiring contract straight up would make salary work, and then Portland would need to throw in at least a few second-rounders, potentially even a first if a bidding war were to take place for Morris’ talents.
Marcus Morris would provide the Blazers with a wing defender that can play the three or the four and supply some shooting off the catch along with self-creation on the offensive end.
Some other names to keep an eye out for are Jae Crowder, Danilo Gallinari, Davis Bertans, Jabari Parker, Robert Covington, and Trevor Ariza.