PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Trail Blazers reportedly made a trade this weekend that a handful of NBA pundits and former front-office executives believe is a precursor to further moves by Portland’s front office to get the team under the luxury tax.
The Blazers agreed to send Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks (in 2024 and 2025) to the Sacramento Kings for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan and Wenyen Gabriel, according to multiple reports.
The trade can’t be completed until Tuesday because Gabriel has a no-trade restriction that expires that day.
Here’s what the media is saying about the trade:
The Blazers may make more trades to get all the way under the luxury tax
JOHN HOLLINGER, THE ATHLETIC
What he wrote: With Portland’s announcement that it is open for business, the question is what the Blazers can do now to get themselves under the tax entirely. This is a potentially important consideration, given that the team is likely to either threaten or land in the tax in each of the next four seasons, and thus could face some ugly repeater bills if it is in the tax this year too.
Most notably, the Blazers are now in position to consummate a Hassan Whiteside trade that gets them all the way under. For example, a team needing a big could send Portland $22M in expiring contracts and take back Whiteside and one of Mario Hezonja or Gabriel; that would allow the Blazers to limbo under the tax line.
JEFF SIEGEL, EARLY BIRD RIGHTS
What he wrote: The most important facet of this deal for Portland is their proximity to the luxury tax. In total, the Trail Blazers will save roughly $12.79 million, assuming the trade does go down on the 21st as expected. More than $10 million of that savings comes in the form of a reduced luxury tax bill, which still may drop in the coming weeks as they make further moves.
Under Paul Allen, the Blazers were always willing to pay the tax for a competitive team, but after his passing in 2018 and the start to their 2019-20 campaign, it makes sense that Jody Allen might look to cut costs for the current year, now that she’s taken control of the team. However, this deal does not portend for future cost-cutting measures, and in fact gives the team more flexibility to spend further for next year’s roster, should Allen approve a large enough budget for team salary.
JASMYN WIMBISH & SAM QUINN, CBS SPORTS
What they wrote: When luxury tax payments are factored in, the deal will save Portland around $12.3 million in total. At this point, they remain a little over $6 million above the tax line, so if the season continues to go south, watch out for more cash-cutting moves. Their path to ducking the tax entirely would likely revolve around flipping Hassan Whiteside’s expiring contract in exchange for smaller, but longer contracts.
Trevor Ariza is an upgrade at forward for the Blazers
KEVIN PELTON, ESPN+
What he wrote: Though he remains a quality defender, Bazemore’s shooting has been a disappointment with the Blazers. He has hit just 33% of his 3s and a career-low 37% inside the arc for a dismal .475 true shooting percentage. Buoyed by 35% 3-point shooting — right on his career average — Ariza’s true shooting percentage is a far superior .543. Ariza’s ability to defend power forwards will also give Portland coach Terry Stotts more options with his frontcourt shorthanded.
ZACH HARPER, THE ATHLETIC
What he wrote: Trevor Ariza … can slide into the role Kent Bazemore was filling and possibly give them a little more stability on offense. Ariza is past his prime as a primary defender. Bazemore had to grab a lot of those assignments this season, and he fought as much as he can. Ariza is a more stable shooter from deep. He’s only knocking down 35.2% of his 3-pointers this season, but that’s in line with his career 35.1%. Bazemore has fallen to under 33% in each of the last two seasons. The Blazers might downgrade in defensive capabilities here (unless Ariza has a resurgence), but they can keep loading up on offense with his improved outside shooting. Spreading the floor with Ariza and Carmelo Anthony provides more of a threat than Melo and Bazemore.
WIMBISH & QUINN, CBS SPORTS
What they wrote: [The Blazers] desperately needed forward help, though, as their primary wing defenders so far this season had been the 6-5 Bazemore and Carmelo Anthony, never known for his defensive exploits. The numbers are still generally quite favorable to Ariza on that end of the floor. He is fifth among small forwards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus, was fourth on the Kings in Defensive Win Shares despite trailing the players ahead of him in minutes by a wide margin, and Sacramento’s defense as a whole was 6.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor (105) than off of it (111.7).
The eye-test hasn’t been quite as convincing. Ariza has clearly lost a step athletically. At 34, that is to be expected, and he is playing his fewest minutes in over a decade. Getting Ariza three years ago would have gotten the Blazers an easy “A,” but this version is quite as safe. Still, the Blazers needed someone small forward-size who could at least provide passable defense on the Western Conference’s best wings.