Another pillar of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty fell with the trade that sent Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies back in July.
After the departure of Kevin Durant in free agency, the Warriors salvaged a sign-and-trade that landed them D’Angelo Russell. That was the good news. The bad news was that the Warriors wouldn’t be able to retain Andre Iguodala because of a hard cap that was triggered.
The Warriors sent Iguodala, cash, and a 2024 first-round pick to the Grizzlies for Julian Washburn, who was immediately cut. While Iguodala would prefer a buyout of his hefty $17.2 million contract so he can sign where he wants, the Grizzlies have made it abundantly clear that they have no intention of buying out the remaining year on that contract.
This suggests Memphis sees conceivable trade value to contending teams looking for a defensive anchor who has succeeded in the playoffs throughout his career. Iguodala and the Grizzlies have come to some sort of agreement to have him wait at home until a transaction is finally figured out. The two parties are of the understanding that a deal might not come about until “deep into the 2019-20 regular season.”
There has been speculation about an eventual buyout of Iguodala and his corresponding signing with one of the big contenders like the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, or Houston Rockets.
But the reality is that the Grizzlies will be looking at a trade first. It won’t be as simple as a buyout until all options are exhausted.
The ideal candidate is a fringe contender that needs some defensive consistency at the forward position. They would need to have short-term contracts that can be exchanged to make the numbers work.
They’d also need to be willing to give up draft capital, or possibly even a young piece that would interest Memphis.
Enter the Portland Trail Blazers, who are quietly a nice suitor for the rebuilding Memphis squad.
Portland exceeded expectations last season on the effort of the oft-underrated Damian Lillard and the huge offseason improvement of Jusuf Nurkic.
This past offseason, the Blazers acquired Hassan Whiteside as they wait for Jusuf Nurkic to return from his leg fracture suffered late last season. They also locked down their All-Star-caliber backcourt and extended head coach Terry Stotts.
The Blazers are a team poised to make it into the playoffs again this season, but it remains to be seen if they have enough talent in their rotation to make it to the NBA Finals.
Andre Iguodala could be that guy.
Why the Portland Trail Blazers should trade for Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala’s championship pedigree is undoubted — he may end up in the Hall of Fame based heavily on what he was able to do to elevate the Golden State Warriors in recent years.
It’s unlikely that Iguodala has Portland as a top destination, but he surely could see himself elevating the team and contributing in a meaningful way off the bench.
Portland has a very obvious need at the forward positions this season after parting ways with Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless.
Even last season, the forward spots weren’t a strong point, but taking on Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver hasn’t exactly instilled confidence amongst fans.
Hezonja has shown flashes of promise in his relatively short career, but hasn’t exactly sparked runs off the bench with 3.5 points in 18 minutes a game.
Anthony Tolliver, meanwhile, has looked atrocious in his first three games back with the Blazers since the 2009-10 season. He has been torched on the defensive end and hasn’t hit a shot so far this year. It’s his age-34 season, but he’s looking about a decade older.
The team has also thinned their forward rotations by giving Zach Collins — who recently dislocated his left shoulder — minutes at the 5, with Skal Labissiere getting very limited minutes and Kent Bazemore playing a backup shooting guard role.
The biggest questions for the team come on the defensive end. While the offense has been clicking and should be fine with multiple options in the starting lineup, the defense has been questionable at best.
So far this season, the Portland Trail Blazers rank 18th out of 30 teams in defensive rating, per NBA.com. Iguodala would give quality minutes off the bench and help mentor several young and unproven players during a critical point of their careers.
Furthermore, Iguodala would help up the pace the Blazers play at. This is a significant aspect of their game; when the team gets out in the open floor and runs, they have enough playmakers to make transition defenses pay.
It’s now or never for a team that has gone almost all-in this season. They could be a veteran piece away from reaching the next level.
Why the Portland Trail Blazers shouldn’t trade for Andre Iguodala
For a trade to happen, the Blazers would have to make sure to make room for Iguodala’s massive one-year contract. Luckily — or unluckily — they have a player who could help that aspect of the deal.
The Blazers acquired Bazemore from the Atlanta Hawks this past season for Evan Turner. Bazemore is in the final year of his contract, making $19.2 million after exercising his player option.
In addition to Bazemore, the Trail Blazers would have to entice the Grizzlies with a young player or a draft pick. It’s unlikely Portland would consider moving one of Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, or Zach Collins in a trade like this. But they could conceivably look at moving Gary Trent Jr. or Skal Labissiere.
They may even consider forgoing either of those names, opting to use a first-round pick in some future season. The Blazers have all of their future first-round picks, though they owe multiple future second-round picks.
In any case, the Blazers would have to part with some piece that would make them immediately more desirable as a trade partner than other teams.
Perhaps Portland has already found its Iguodala Lite in Bazemore this season.
While he hasn’t established himself nearly as much of a defensive stopper, Bazemore has quietly put up 2.5 steals per game this season. His active hands and versatility between defending both forwards and guards is similar to Iguodala.
With this in mind, the Blazers would risk paying extra for an asset they might already have in waiting.
It’s a gamble putting that kind of stock in Bazemore. But the best course of action might be to run with the team they have, and make any necessary, minor tweaks just before the trade deadline.
Somewhere down the line, Portland may discover it already has its veteran wing coming off the bench.