The Portland Trail Blazers have perhaps been the most disappointing team in the league thus far. Six months removed from a berth in the Western Conference finals, if the playoffs were to start today, Portland would be out. Entering play on Tuesday, they are 9-15 with just one win over a .500-or-better team.
The move for Carmelo Anthony was, and continues to be, a nice story for Anthony. But it hasn't made much difference in the win-loss column for Portland, which is 4-6 since adding Anthony with two of those wins over the hapless Bulls.
Jusuf Nurkic remains out and there's no telling when he'll return. Zach Collins is out until at least the beginning of March with a four-month timeline on his surgically repaired dislocated shoulder. Rodney Hood just tore his Achilles and is out for the season.
So, yeah, the Blazers are pretty desperate.
Question is: How desperate?
On Tuesday, The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor reported that if Kevin Love is indeed traded, he would prefer it be to the Blazers. Love grew up in Lake Oswego, Oregon. More importantly, he would fit perfectly with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum as a floor-stretching big who can run pick-and-pop all day long.
Portland has long needed a versatile four-man who can play pick-and-roll, and make downhill plays as a release valve when Lillard and McCollum get double teamed off that action. From a pure talent and production standpoint, Love is still a top-tier rebounder and shooter, and he's a great passer who could serve as an Al Horford-like hub, which would allow Lillard a breather as he works more off the ball.
Also, Portland has the contracts to make a trade work. Hassan Whiteside, on an expiring deal, is making $27.1 million this season. Kent Bazemore, also expiring, is making just under $20 million. Either one of them could be the money in the deal. Throw in a first-round pick, and perhaps Cleveland bites. It feels pretty perfect.
So what's the problem? Well, nothing in the short term. The Blazers would get a lot better with Love, positioning themselves to get back in the playoff race and make noise once they get there. The long-term view is a different story. Love is in the first season of a four-year, $120 million contract. That means Portland would be tied to Love, who is 31 years old with a serious injury history, for the next three seasons beyond this one.
With McCollum and Lillard also locked up long term, having Love secured could be a good thing for the Blazers, who haven't historically been a franchise that can expect to sign big-name free agents. With the expected development of Anfernee Simons, Zach Collins and Nassir Little, that's a good team that can reasonably compete for a conference crown for the foreseeable future.
But it's still a gamble to take on a four-year, big-money deal for a 31-year-old with an injury history unless that player makes you an immediate title contender. Love probably does not do that for the Blazers with the Clippers, Bucks and Lakers looking like the cream of the crop.
O'Connor also reported that Portland is expected to pursue Danilo Gallinari, who unlike Love is not tied up long term. Again, this could be a good or a bad thing. Gallinari is a 40-percent 3-point shooter and the Blazers really need distance shooters (they are 16th in 3-point makes per game, per NBA.com), and being he's expiring at the end of the season, you don't have to worry about him tying up your books.
On the other hand, do you really want to trade for a player that isn't going to make you a title contender this season who can just leave this summer anyway? What's the point?
Obviously, it's all about what Portland has to give up. If the Cavs were to demand, say, Simons in a deal, perhaps Portland backs out and pursues Gallinari at a lower price. But the Blazers won't be the only ones pursuing Gallinari, who can help a lot of teams on a big-time level.
In the end, this comes down to just how desperate the Blazers are to not give up on this season, which is quickly circling the drain. Are they willing to lock themselves into a Lillard-McCollum-Love trio through the 2022-23 season? Would they even think about including Simons in a deal? It's a hard pill to swallow to give up on a season with Lillard and McCollum on your team and not getting any younger. Get Nurkic back and trade for Love, you can easily convince yourself that's a path worth going down.
Even if the baggage could get pretty heavy down the road.