After 6 games the Portland Trail Blazers, 2-4, are off to a predictable start for this season of low expectations. What is also unsurprising is the ever present hum of the NBA rumor mill, or in this day in age, the tweets coming from Twitter. Thursday evening scout and featured writer for Crossover Chronicles, Wendell Maxey, @w_maxey, tweeted out, “in order to get a deal done, i fear blazers may have to include leonard. i doubt babbitt and smith are making phones ring off the hook.” There is a lot of truth in what Maxey stated. The Blazers have some very good starters, but after that the assets on their rosters are few and far between. The player most likely to draw interest around the league would be center Meyers Leonard.
Leonard is a young rookie with plenty of room for growth. Thus far this season, he is averaging just over 19 minutes a game and contributing 4 points and 4.5 rebounds. Not spectacular numbers, but it is evident that Leonard has a lot of upside and untapped potential. He plays hard and seems to want to succeed, always a key ingredient. Not to mention the fact that he is 7’1” and very athletic. Blazers assistant coach Kim Hughes thinks Leonard has the ability to blossom into an NBA all-star.
The Blazers are in a tough spot. They have a starting group that can play with any team in the NBA. Their bench is shallow and not very good. Case in point, the Blazers lost to San Antonio 112-109 Saturday night. The Blazers bench players accounted for 4 points. Conversely, the Spurs reserves scored 63 points. The temptation to leverage the future and trade Meyers Leonard for a couple of players that can contribute in a reserve role is certainly enticing. Maybe a deal like this could enable them to sneak into the playoffs.
Leonard’s long term potential certainly has value as a trade piece. However, it is hard to conceive another team giving up the type of veteran players the Blazers would need to really make a difference this season. The Blazers need to ride this season out. It will certainly be a long and bumpy ride, no doubt. But the long term gains by keeping a young and talented player like Leonard along with the rising stars on the first unit is worth the wait.
Next summer, the Blazers will have cap room to invest in a difference making free agent. In all likelihood they will be in the NBA lottery. Not a place the Blazers or their fans want to be often. But if the Blazers can exercise a little patience, this rebuilding period will be brief and the future bright. The old adage is, sometimes you need to take a step back to take a step forward. This is where the Blazers are at the moment. This is OK for the time being. Meyers Leonard, Damian Lillard and company will supply Blazers fans with plenty of wins and excitement in years to come.
Patrick Hughes is on Twitter. Follow him at @phughespdx