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Alright, so this is a weird one.
Normally when I ramble about something, I generally refrain from a structure to allow for a more free-flowing prosaic quality to shine through. And that does happen here, eventually, as the Blazers are one of those subjects that render my already effusive self to become even more effusive…-er (?).
Anyways, before we arrive there, however, there’s some structure by nature of the NBA’s trade deadline that needs to happen. Consider this the groundwork for the wild and vertical garden that is my usual ramble.
Also, I wrote this, like, two weeks ago but edited it for some timeliness.
Thoughts on the Reddish & Thybulle Trade
2023 FRP (from New York)*
2024 SRP (from Charlotte)
2029 SRP (from Portland)
2023 SRP (from Philadelphia)
2027 SRP (from Portland)
Originally this trade was announced as two separate trades, with Svi Mykhailiuk being later rerouted from Portland to Charlotte. However, it is officially listed as a four-team deal. We’re going to break it down by the three most important components.
The Cam Reddish Part of It
Cam Reddish is a physical presence the Blazers have needed from the start of the season, but his decision-making has been suspect since entering the league, and the jumpshot does not always give confidence. Moreover, the Blazers lose Josh Hart’s secondary ballhandler abilities and his attack-at-all-costs mentality.
Reddish struggled under Tom Thibodeau in New York, riding the pine more often than not. But if he could develop consistency at 12 points/6 rebounds/2 assists (with some assertive defensive effort), then he will probably find himself a rotation spot in Portland. Not just for this season but next season, as well as Reddish entering restricted free agency in the summer. Thus far, he’s approached that, but not totally.
The Matisse Thybulle Part of It
For the price of Svi Mykhailiuk and two second-round picks (or 2/5 of a Jae Crowder in NBA meme parlance), the Blazers also managed to nab a great defender in Matisse Thybulle, who had been otherwise sidelined as well under Doc Rivers. Much like Reddish, the former Husky in Thybulle has been waiting for a chance to prove his quality.
He’s also somebody who Damian Lillard has vocally approved and wanted to play with for some time. His first few games have shown flashes of the threeball, but it’s not a consistent shot and will be key to keeping Thybulle on the floor and defenses honest. The defense of Thybulle, however, is not a fluke. By every metric, he’s one of the best defensive players in the league and will serve Billups well as a disruptor.
Thybulle will also be entering restricted free agency this summer, but it would be shocking to see the Blazers let Thybulle walk.
The First Round Pick Part of It
To be sure, Reddish and Thybulle alone won’t be the reason this season changes. And these moves don’t speak much to any changes happening this season anyways.
The real bounty of the trade was not Reddish or Thybulle, either, but that first-round pick. There’s a curative nature to this part of the trade because it allows for the front office to remediate its predecessor’s last deal. It’s tempting to call the Nance Jr. deal folly, but that’s not telling the whole truth. Only the pick protections felt haphazard. And besides, there are plenty of other non-moves to criticize the former General Manager, Neil Olshey.
The trade for Larry Nance Jr. during the 2021 offseason came with a steep price, but one that would have paid off had external factors not removed the conditions for it success. In other words: no Lillard injury, no problem, the Blazers make the playoffs, and the protections until 2028 never go into effect. The deal matures as intended.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Lillard played hurt, Nance never quite fit into Chauncey Billups’ lineups and the team competed with little fire after November. Then the wheels fell off: Lillard needed surgery, CJ and Nance were traded to the Pelicans, the Blazers shifted gears from the playoffs towards drafting and development, and those same afterthought protections were engaged.
With the Knicks’ 2023 first-round pick, however (which is also lottery protected so, er, go Knicks), the Blazers can erase the downer history laid out in those four previous paragraphs. They don’t have to worry about missing the playoffs and deferring their promised pick to Chicago for another year. They have an immediate carrot they can exchange with Chicago for the promised carrot.
Were the Knicks to miss the playoffs, the first-rounder would convert into multiple second-round picks. That sounds terrible, but as this deadline showed, second-round picks actually lubricate the squeaky wheels of NBA deals.
Thoughts on the Gary Payton II Trade
2023 SRP (from ATL, BKN or CHA)
2024 SRP (from Atlanta)
2025 SRP (from Golden State)*
2026 SRP (from Memphis)**
2028 SRP (from Golden State)
*Protected from 41-60
**Top 42 Protected
Gary Payton II
2 SRP (from Atlanta)
The “Are You Serious Right Now?” Part of It
Honestly, that’s kind of the story about this trade. But no matter, the much-maligned Gary Payton II deal finally went through on the Sunday before the All-Star game.
With that came the real winning piece: shutting up the Warriors’ front office, the media members, and anyone else trying to paint the Blazers’ medical team as dangerous merchants of painkillers and forced returns. Yes, there is a historical truth about the Blazers giving “liberal” treatment, but that’s 40 years behind us at this point.
Were you to ask any Blazermaniac, the Golden State went from last decade’s Lakers to eternal dirty rotten bastards in a single deadline, and I am sure the opposite is true for Warriors fans. But the real villain is the poor reporting from the Athletic. The outlet’s reporters never did their due diligence, failing to reach out to the Blazers’ front office for clarification. Nor did Bob Myers actually do his due diligence to find out about Payton’s medical treatment.
Moreover, Payton surprised the Blazers with his core surgery during the offseason and previously played hurt during the Warriors’ championship run last postseason. So, what’s the real deal here, huffing-and-puffing hypocrisy?
Yes. But also a useless media kerfuffle with everyone out for blood and slinging mud.
The “I JUST WANT MY STUFF” Part of It
All that aside: The Hawks and Pistons stood in the corner, probably a little angry that their bounties of Saddiq Bey and… James Wiseman (wait, am I reading that right?) were being held up by a catfight on the West Coast. As for the Blazers? They traded Payton for the full Jae Crowder price.
5 second-round picks for the Blazers and a Kevin Knox for the road. Knox probably will soon see his exit from the league, but the Blazers can use those second rounds picks as WD-40 for any squeaky summer deal. The Blazers also created a 10 million dollar trade exception, which will help make any money work for a big deal in the summer.
By all accounts, this was the “get me my assets” part of the trade deadline. I also want to take the blame for manifesting this trade with 15 minutes left. When reports first came out, I was ecstatic that the Warriors had only traded Wiseman away. Then the story developed.
Mea culpa. But at least Joe Cronin has his picks now.
Final Thoughts on the Trade Deadline
Asset acquisition was the name of the game. The Blazers acquired size, athleticism and trade assets for the summer market, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a better basketball team. They traded some serious skill and playoff experience in both Josh Hart and Payton for mercurial youth.
This usually does not translate into consistent wins.
I originally wrote this part after the All-Star game in Utah but it still holds up after the Blazers’ frankly humiliating loss against the same dirty rotten Warriors on February 28.
After the trade deadline, the Blazers have gone for two wins and four losses, all against teams that can parade out some size. Washington, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Houston or Golden State, it doesn’t matter. They may not be equally skilled, but their size can damn near neutralize the entire Blazers squad without Jusuf Nurkic.
It would be wiser to hope the Knicks make the playoffs while the Blazers miss it. This would allow the Blazers a lottery chance in a deep draft, while the Knicks would provide a surrogate pick for the Bulls. The Blazers probably still wouldn’t win the Wembanyama sweepstakes, but a man can dream, though, a man can dream.
Even a top-six pick, however, could be the key piece in any potential trade for a secondary-star player on the level of Pascal Siakam. That doesn’t mean instant contender, but it does mean improvement. In order to make it happen, the Blazers have to be active in the summer, resign Jerami Grant and find the right deal for their picks.
Anything less just isn’t enough.