There had been a few sporadic trades earlier in the year, but the names were such as Rajon Rondo, Bol Bol, PJ Dozier, etc. No big, or even medium, names were being exchanged until this trade.
LA Clippers receive: Norman Powell and Robert Covington
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a 2025 SRP via Detroit
The Blazers have had a rough going for quite some time now, and let’s be honest, this trade isn’t making things any better. Let’s first examine the trade from the Clippers’ viewpoint. Before this trade, Steve Ballmer had a $94M luxury tax bill to pay. Instead of working on that, he acquired $19M more in salary from the incoming players. However, the Clippers had to get out of Bledsoe’s contract due to price inflation in the upcoming years. Powell is the definition of an ‘underrated’ player in the league and deserves all the credit he receives. He averaged almost 19 PPG on 46/41/80 shooting splits. The Trail Blazers offensive rating increases from 106.8 without him to 112.3 with him. Robert Covington was not what Portland needed. Covington, although a great help and secondary defender, is not a strong on-ball isolation defender. This did not bode well for the team, as their list of stout on-ball defenders couldn’t be shorter. Looking into the future, the Clippers already have capable on-ball defenders in Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Terance Mann. Adding another help defender alongside Nic Batum will only boost their defensive value entering next season.
From the Blazers’ perspective, this was a financial move to get off the expiring contract of Robert Covington and under the luxury tax. This gives them an ample quantity of money to re-sign Anfernee Simons and still have money to make other moves. I’m having a hard time believing that Eric Bledsoe and Justise Winslow will amount to anything major in Portland, although Winslow has been decent in his 123 minutes played with the team and is averaging a career-high in rebounds (7.4 per game). With Simons, Smith Jr., McLemore, Hart, Powell, etc., the playing time will be scarce for these two. As for Keon Johnson, the Blazers are taking a chance with this young player. The original 5-star recruit is a tremendous athlete and was one of the best speed/acceleration players in college. His defense is great, his hands are quick he is very agile, but his offensive struggles are what’s holding him back in the NBA. His shot wasn’t there in college and it hasn’t turned up in the NBA either. It’s great to have a good defender, but in today’s NBA, offensive skill is the prevalent trait.
This trade is simply a stepping stone for the Blazers, but for the Clippers, this move could be their finishing touch to a championship-contending team for next year. However, that’s all up to the collective health of the team. The organization would need the entire team to be healthy to contend, and if they are, this team will certainly give teams a run for their money.