A home win last night over the Kings ensured that the Trail Blazers surpassed the Jazz and Timberwolves in the Western standings, making them the eighth seed in the conference. It's still very early in the season, but Portland has outperformed most expectations so far, and now the team will have to decide whether its performance will affect the way it approaches roster moves as the trade deadline approaches. Jason Quick of the Oregonian has the latest updates on that front, so let's round up the highlights....
- After a veteran reporter told Quick that he'd heard the Blazers are shopping LaMarcus Aldridge, the Oregonian scribe asked Blazers GM Neil Olshey directly whether that was the case. "It was as if I had told Olshey the best joke he had ever heard," says Quick, who adds that the Blazers haven't made a single call about Aldridge, though they did field one exploratory inquiry from another team.
- Olshey has identified a handful of core players in Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, and Wesley Matthews, and it would be a huge surprise if any of those guys were moved. "The players on our roster who are no-brainers are not going anywhere," Olshey said, referring to that core.
- Of those four players, Matthews represents the most likely candidate to be dealt, but the Blazers GM has come to value the guard more than his stats suggest and wants him around during the rebuild, making a trade very unlikely.
- The Blazers may still make a move before February 21st, but it's unlikely to be a deal that "moves the needle."
- Quick speculates that Portland's top trade candidate could be J.J. Hickson, who has been outperforming his one-year, $4MM contract so far. The Blazers may want to get something in return for him before he hits free agency next July.
- Portland is expected to pursue a center and shooting guard in free agency or the draft next summer, when the team should be working with eight figures in cap space.