COMMENTARY | As the NBA's trade deadline approaches, the Portland Trail Blazers face a bit of a conundrum.
On one hand, the team really needs some depth if it's going to make a run at the NBA playoffs this season.
On the other, there aren't many chips general manager Neil Olshey can use to acquire that depth.
So even though Portland is a team that still needs a few pieces, it seems unlikely Olshey will make any moves before Thursday's noon Pacific Time deadline.
And that's probably the best move he could make, at this point.
J.J. Hickson's name keeps coming up in trade rumors, and according to reports, the Blazers have at least been willing to listen to offers for their undersized starting center.
Hickson's in the midst of a career year, averaging 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds a game, but he's also set to become a free agent at the end of the season, and as The Oregonian newspaper recently pointed out, Hickson has the right to veto any trade the Blazers might make.
Meaning, quite simply, his smartest move would appear to be just playing out the season at the same high level he has been, then cash in on a new deal.
The assumption here is that that more or less takes Hickson out of the stable of trade chips Olshey can use, unless something spectacular comes along that would equally benefit the Blazers and Hickson.
So if we look past Hickson on Portland's roster, the possibilities -- at least from a trade standpoint -- get pretty unappealing pretty quick.
The Blazers aren't likely to trade any of their other four starters -- All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, Rookie of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, small forward Nicolas Batum or shooting guard Wesley Matthews -- nor would it make much sense to trade rookie center Meyers Leonard.
And see, there's the issue. Those five guys -- plus Hickson -- are the primary reason Portland has been anywhere near the .500 mark this season, playing far above expectations during a rebuilding campaign.
True, the Blazers are slumping right now, having lost six in a row heading into Friday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers, but they're still 25-29 and within reach of a playoff spot.
Of course, that's going to take some doing, especially now that Portland is four games back of the Houston Rockets for the Western Conference's No. 8 seed. Some depth would seem to be a must if the Blazers are going to remain in the postseason picture at all.
That alone might be enough to consider pulling off a deadline-day trade to get a couple of viable reserves.
But right now, the team should be more concerned about the future. Remember, this was never supposed to be anything but a rebuilding season. The Blazers can't let the excitement over those early wins derail their plans. They've got a lot of young players riding the pine, and those guys need time to develop.
Until they do, there's simply not enough valuable trading options for Portland right now. The Blazers can't afford to use up that salary cap space they're expected to have for use in free agency this summer; they aren't going to trade any of their top dogs; and the one standout player they might consider trading -- Hickson -- has good reason to veto pretty much any deal the team might make.
All that considered, Portland's best move right now appears to be no move at all.
Adam Sparks has followed the Portland Trail Blazers since the early 1980s, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
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