Portland Trail Blazers: Team Stands Pat At Trade Deadline

The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t make any moves at Thursday’s trade deadline. Instead, their focus has turned to the future.

Instead of joining in, the Portland Trail Blazers watched the fireworks of Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline like the rest of us.

The full team besides Tim Quarterman (playing in the D-League) and Festus Ezeli (injured) spent Thursday down in Florida, preparing to play the Orlando Magic. The Blazers won the game 112-103 that night.

Portland made its deal ahead of time. On Feb. 13 the team picked up Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round draft pick from the Denver Nuggets. In exchange, Denver received Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second round draft pick.

Despite their inactivity afterwards, the Blazers were the subject of a few trade rumors leading up to the deadline.

Portland was reported to be interested in Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor. The Blazers chose to pursue Nurkic instead, and Okafor remains in Philadelphia.

A report by USA Today’s Sam Amick included guard Allen Crabbe and big man Ed Davis. Amick listed them as players that Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird inquired about to possibly help his team contend in the Eastern Conference.

But the biggest rumor came from ESPN’s Marc Stein. It involved the Blazers possibly trading away Festus Ezeli. Portland acquired Ezeli to be a major rim protector. However, knee injuries in the preseason have kept him off the court all year.

Portland was pitching Ezeli to teams that needed a contract to get them closer to the salary floor.

But none of those rumors materialized, and the 3 p.m. ET deadline came and went.

Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey joined The Vertical’s Trade Deadline Special shortly after the deadline passed. He explained that the focus has shifted towards developing who they have, and working to make moves this summer.

Via The Vertical, as transcribed by Blazers.com:

“We wanted to build more for the future. We added Jusuf Nurkic, a young big guy, we like his potential. He came along with a first round pick, so having three picks in this draft — having all of our players offer cost-certainty because they’re all under contract — gives us a lot of flexibility to make deals when we get into the offseason.”

The phones have stopped ringing and the season’s final stretch has arrived. However, the Blazers have so many movable pieces (contracts, draft picks) that what they’re going to do next is a mystery.

Still, there are a few things a fan can examine to get an idea of the team’s possible direction.

For one, the Blazers do not want to be a team that has to pay the luxury tax. Yet every player is under contract through at least next season. If they keep everyone for 2017-18, Portland will be $20.6 million into the tax.

Of those contracts, the money owed to Ezeli, Quarterman, and Pat Connaughton in 2017-18 is not guaranteed.

Also of note, Neil Olshey said in The Vertical interview that he intends to use all three first round draft picks the team currently holds. Draft Express lists French point guard Frank Ntilikina, Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon, and Baylor power forward Jonathan Motley as the Blazers’s projected picks.

But for now, Portland will move forward with their current roster. Together, they will fight with Denver, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Sacramento Kings, and the Dallas Mavericks for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

But this summer will be an offseason at the crossroads. Every player is under contract through at least next season, and the team is armed with three first round draft picks.

The future is wide open for the Portland Trail Blazers.

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