Trade season has officially begun, and in a wild fashion.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Portland Trail Blazers have decided to send Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Los Angles Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a future second-round pick. In other words, it appears the Trail Blazers are signaling full-blown tank mode.
Clippers are sending Blazers a 2025 second-round pick via the Detroit Pistons, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 4, 2022
The trade will put Portland under the luxury tax.
The Clippers tax bill increases from $93.9M to $112.9M (+$19M). https://t.co/ZpEJfML8XM
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 4, 2022
While Keon Johnson (2020 No. 21-overall pick) might be an interesting young prospect to grab in return, the Trail Blazers just traded away two starting-caliber players for quite the lackluster package. The move seems to be nothing more than a cash grab, dumping salary to push the team under the luxury tax as they look to potentially re-invent a roster that sits 21-31 on the season.
For the Clippers, this feels like a potential highway robbery for a team that is immediately considered a Finals contender once both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George return. While exactly when that return will be remains up in the air, Powell is a savvy offensive wing who is just entering his prime and under contract for the next four seasons ($18 million AAV). Covington, on the other hand, might be on an expiring deal, but his defense and veteran experience can help the team stay in the current playoff picture. Plus, it’s always easier to convince someone to re-sign once they’re in the building.
What we have to wonder now is what comes next for either team. If the Blazers are entering tank mode, could they be more willing to part ways with a frontcourt piece like Larry Nance Jr.? Covington felt like a potential fit for the frontcourt-needy Bulls, but maybe Arturas Karnisovas could turn his attention toward Nance. Or could this turn into a three-team deal where someone else grabs Covington? What about Serge Ibaka or Nic Batum? Will LA now be more willing to move either play if they keep Covington? If so, those are two more names that could make sense for this Bulls team. I’m assuming neither team is done, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski hinted at as much after the news broke on ESPN.
— 𝐓𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧' 𝐍𝐁𝐀 (@_Talkin_NBA) February 4, 2022
And, of course, we have to consider that the Blazers’ current path puts them in a position to hold onto their 2022 first-round pick. The Bulls acquired the lottery-protected first in a three-team deal this summer, and it could be an extremely important trade chip for the organization at this deadline. Fortunately, it is protected up until 2028, meaning there is still plenty of time for it to convey, but it still could lose some immediate availability in the open market this season.