The loss of Trevor Ariza for the NBA’s resumption stings for the Portland Trail Blazers, but thankfully, the team can scour the market for a replacement.
Ever since the NBA announced that it would return, many have speculated that the Portland Trail Blazers could be a dark horse candidate in the Western Conference. Currently sitting in the 9-seed, the Blazers appeared ready to make a run at near full strength when the NBA resumes next month.
With the hiatus having provided time to let big men Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic heal back to full strength, Portland would add two stellar big men to their rotation. However, it appears that the team could be without Carmelo Anthony next month, and officially without Trevor Ariza after reports came out yesterday that he would sit out the remainder of the season.
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While Anthony has not officially decided, it would be an absolutely detrimental blow to the team’s contending chances if he sits out alongside Ariza. Whatever happens, the Blazers should look at the current free agent market during this transaction window to bolster their roster because, on paper, this team could make some noise.
With Ariza out, the Blazers will need to find a player to fill the void left behind. In 21 starts with the team, Ariza averaged 11.0 points per game on a stellar 49.1 percent shooting from the field and 40.0 percent 3-point shooting. The forward was a fantastic addition after coming over midseason through a trade with the Sacramento Kings and now find themselves in a predicament without him.
Standing pat with their current options at the small forward position appears not to be a legitimate option. The only other listed small forwards on the roster are Rodney Hood, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury this year, and Jaylen Hoard, a rookie on a two-way contract. Those circumstances do not leave the Blazers with many options within the organization, but thankfully, they do not have to solely rely on that.
With their starting small forward and lethal offensive threat opting out of the remainder of the season, Portland can pick their poison when it comes to replacements on the free-agent market. The team needs a wing that can shoot the ball efficiently and preferably also defend well to help them stay afloat in the standings.
A few notable names that come to mind are J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Gerald Green. All three can shoot the ball at a high-rate while simultaneously provide some versatile defense. Each of the three finds themselves out of the league for various reasons, but still undoubtedly have something left to contribute to a team in need.
Whether any of these household names can match or outproduce that of Ariza’s stature is questionable, but at this time, the gamble is worth it for the Portland Trail Blazers.
As Damian Lillard recently told Lisa Robinson of Vanity Fair, this team believes they can upset the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in a potential playoff series. Losing Ariza hurts, but it does not have to be the nail in the coffin if the Blazers can find a worthy replacement.
The team has until June 30th before the transaction window closes, and should pursue the opportunity quickly before the current free agents find homes elsewhere. This team has proven that they can compete with the best of the best, and finding an Ariza replacement would only improve their chances of keeping their season alive.