UPDATE 9:08 pm: It has become official, the trade announced by the Portland Trail Blazers. It was as reported, with Nicolas Batum going to Charlotte and Noah Vonleh and guard Gerald Henderson.
“Nic Batum was a key contributor to all of our recent success,” Portland GM Neil Olshey said in a released statement. “He will truly be missed as a person and a player. We wish Nic all the best for the future.”
7: 29 pm: Is this a signal that the Portland Trail Blazers think LaMarcus Aldridge is leaving as a free agent, and it’s time to rebuild for the future around Damian Lillard?
It’s too early to say with any certainty, but this trade about to be finalized and reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports certainly feels like it could be the first step in that direction.
Of course, the Blazers say this is not the first step in a rebuild.
Charlotte had been shopping Cody Zeller in search of wing help, but Portland clearly preferred the the younger, cheaper four on the Hornet roster.
I like this trade for Charlotte. This is a team that was 30th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, plus a team that took a step back defensively last season. Nicolas Batum can help on both those fronts if healthy. The Frenchman struggled some last season battling injuries, and eventually needed wrist surgery, however, he is expected to be healthy for the start of next season. He is set to make $12.2 million in the last year of his deal.
The buzz is that this means Charlotte will take Frank Kaminsky at the No. 9 pick. He could be the kind of pick-and-pop four they hoped Noah Vonleh would develop into.
And he still might. Vonleh is still a teenager, a guy who always was going to need some time to develop, and now Portland will have him on his rookie contract to make that happen. Vonleh is seen as a potential four who can stretch the floor, but Charlotte had concerns about his defensive awareness. The Trail Blazers also pick up a solid veteran rotation guard in Gerald Henderson. They also save about $3.5 million in cap space that can go to luring free agents.
This just doesn’t feel like the kind of trade a win-now team would make, and Portland with Aldridge would be a win-now team. It makes you wonder what they know, and what’s next.