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Portland Trail Blazers Receive: Andrew Wiggins, Justin Patton, Tyus Jones, 2019 first-round pick (top-20 protected)
Minnesota Timberwolves Receive: CJ McCollum, Meyers Leonard
The Portland Trail Blazers backcourt constantly finds itself in rumors. Last October, SI.com’s Jeremy Woo suggested Portland and Minnesota find a way to swap CJ McCollum and Andrew Wiggins. Then, in January, Marc Stein of the New York Times predicted 2018 would be the year in which Portland broke apart the McCollum-Damian Lillard backcourt, one way or another.
The Blazers hardly squelched speculation by getting swept out of the opening round, stretching their playoff losing streak to 10 games. So ahead of 2018-19, we’re taking Woo’s idea involving McCollum and Wiggins and adding a few key pieces from each side.
The McCollum-Lillard tandem appears too deficient on defense to ever properly function, particularly when there aren’t sufficient funds to reform the roster around it. The challenge is Portland presumably doesn’t want to reset if it’s keeping the 28-year-old, in-prime Lillard around.
The Blazers are banking on Wiggins realizing untapped potential here, and that’s far from guaranteed. But given his age (23), athleticism and proven production (career 19.7 points per game), it’s foolish to think he’s done developing. And if he keeps climbing, he’s potentially a much better fit in Portland as a multipositional defender, electric off-ball slasher and serviceable spot-up shooter.
Patton gives the Blazers another young big with upside, and Jones adds extra playmaking behind Lillard. With McCollum moving out, Portland can attempt to accelerate the developments of Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons. A similar dynamic could play out up front for Patton, Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan with Leonard following Ed Davis out the door.
The Timberwolves’ motive is simple—chase the best possible on-court product ahead of Jimmy Butler’s potential 2019 free agency. McCollum tops Wiggins in most offensive categories, including shot-creating, floor spacing and distributing. The more scoring chances McCollum could generate (82nd percentile on isolations last season), the easier it’d be for Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns to get their wind.
“Minnesota could really use the added backcourt punch, and McCollum’s ability to play off the ball would fit nicely next to Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns,” Woo wrote.
This is probably too dramatic for either organization to pursue at this stage of the offseason, but if they both stumble out of the gate, they could see it as a way out of potentially stagnant situations.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.