The Portland Blazers are a team centered around an established All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge, one in the making in Damian Lillard and an eclectic mix of veterans and expiring contracts in between. How that manifests itself in today's volatile trade market remains to be seen, but there is plenty to explore in the Pacific Northwest.
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Most rumors with respect to the Blazers seem to involve J.J. Hickson. The 24-year-old forward is playing out a one-year contract and has been a big part of Portland's surprising season to this point while averaging 12.9 points and 10.4 rebounds. The Blazers have to make a tough decision on whether or not to include Hickson as part of their future plans.
Selling high on Hickson could upset the fan base, as Portland currently is in the midst of fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Coupled with the fact that the market may not command much for the 24-year-old in return, which is essentially what SB Nation's Blazers Edge reported Tuesday, and the Blazers may just choose to stand pat.
if that's the case, then fans will want to follow the playoff race closely. The Blazers will get to keep their first-round pick if they fail to make the postseason, which could prove to be useful for a team that's sorely lacking in depth. Portland has arguably one of the worst benches in the league, so adding another talented young player would be of great help to a starting lineup that has been good this season.
What makes the situation even more interesting with Hickson is the fact that the Blazers are set to have a decent amount of cap space this offseason. As of right now, Portland has just over $43 million in salaries committed to next season. That will likely go up a couple of million bucks depending on draft picks and the potential of guaranteeing certain contracts, but regardless, there should be some nice room for a run at a free agent.
Of course, some of that space would be lost if the Blazers hold on to Hickson and decide to re-sign him. He's currently making $4 million this year, so it would seem safe to assume that he would be looking for a raise. Who knows just how much of a raise it would be, but it would still bite a chunk out of that precious space.
Another player to monitor is the Spurs' DeJuan Blair, who has interested Portland, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard. Dave over at Blazer's Edge expanded that interest to a possible move for Tiago Splitter that could include Blazers big man Joel Freeland, although, there's not all that much buzz surrounding that at this point.
When it comes down to it, the Blazers have an excellent young core of Aldridge, Lillard and Nicolas Batum that is not going anywhere. Now, management just needs to find a way to successfully build around them. It appears a move at the deadline may not be the best avenue for that, but perhaps Portland can make something happen.