As the NBA ramps up for its return, a lot remains both up in the air and up for debate—namely, whether the league should even be attempting a comeback at this time.
Putting that monumental topic aside, it’s fair to still think about basketball. After all, for the moment, the games must go on. And for the Portland Trail Blazers, they must go on without their starting small forward.
With Trevor Ariz opting to skip Orlando to tend to a child custody matter, the Blazers have a chance to fill in the roster with a replacement, per the NBA’s new transaction window.
Remember, Portland has already improved its roster since March by virtue of Zach Collins’ and Jusuf Nurkic’s recoveries. But any of the following five players could help further establish this team’s role as one of the league’s most dangerous wild cards.
Jared Uthoff — G-League
This will be the only G-League consideration on this list, but it’s worth it.
Jared Uthoff has only played 13 total NBA games over a two-year period, and his four games this year (1 point in 3.5 minutes with the Memphis Grizzlies) don’t do much to inspire. But in the G-League, the 6’9” forward averaged 19 points and 10.7 rebounds in 34 starts for the Memphis Hustle.
Although you wouldn’t sign a G-Leaguer with this little NBA experience to play a meaningful role in a playoff series, his energy and stat-stuffing abilities scream long-term depth play. Giving him a shot to be on the roster now, chumming it up with new teammates in Orlando, could give Portland a bench option down the road and a new home for the 27-year-old.
When it comes to JR Smith, there are more questions than answers. Is he in any sort of game shape after (basically) two seasons without playing? Can he still contribute meaningful minutes on both sides of the court. Maybe most importantly, what, for real, was he thinking here?
Questions aside, Smith is worth a look, even if the team doesn’t pull the trigger. In theory, he can spread the court, disrupt passing lanes and he fills the position Portland just lost.
Besides, how cool would it be to look back on this season years later, and say that the Blazers had JR Smith, Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony and Pau Gasol all rostered for partial stretches.
2020 remains weird.
Editor’s Note – According to Woj, free agent guard JR Smith has emerged as a leading candidate to replace Avery Bradley on the Lakers roster, sources tell ESPN.
NBA players love their “coming home” moments. LeBron got his. KG got his.
Now, Allen Crabbe could get his.
After trading for Crabbe on draft night in 2013, Portland eventually matched a four-year, $75 million offer sheet from the Brooklyn Nets to retain the wing player in 2016. It was just a year later, though, when the Blazers traded Crabbe, landing the swingman in Brooklyn after all.
Since then, Crabbe and his contract rights have bounced around the league a bit, landing him in the free agency pool in February after being waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
At $75 million, Crabbe is not worth the money—this is now clear. But on a minimum deal for a late-season push, he could help fill a need while giving fans a nostalgia vibe along the way.
Although Tyler Johnson is off the table after signing with the Nets on Tuesday night, the Blazers need a more consistent playmaker and scoring option behind Lillard. Staggering his minutes with McCollum works, and leaning on Simons to fill gaps (along with the vastly improved Gary Trent, Jr.) helps, but unless you feel confident Simons can step in one month from today to lead a team into the playoffs, you have to explore the point-guard market.
Outside of Johnson, Isaiah Thomas’ name sticks out. He’s not going to help you on defense—he’ll probably hurt you on that end, in fact—and there’s no guarantee you see anything resembling the All-Star we remember from his days in Boston. But Thomas is a point guard you can trust with the ball, and he has legitimate winning experience.