The trade deadline isn’t until February 10 but, as usual, teams
are already completing deals. In this case, per ESPN’s Adrian
Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Clippers are sending over a package
led by Eric Bledsoe and Justise Winslow to the Portland Trail
Blazers in exchange for Norman Powell and Robert Covington.
The Clippers are trading Eric Bledsoe,
Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and future second-round pick to the
Trail Blazers for Norman Powell and Robert Covington, sources tell
The Clippers conceptually “win” the trade from the standpoint of
fielding a better roster. Powell’s been the Blazers third-leading
scorer this season wiith Lillard and CJ McCollum out for extended
periods, and the No. 1 option on numerous nights as a result.
Powell extended with Portland over the summer for five years and
$90 million, but it’s an ascending contract that won’t land him a
salary north of $20 million until the last year of the deal. Powell
gives the Clippers a No. 3 or even No. 4, ideally next to Leonard
and George at some point, who can score efficiently and at-will in
different facets of the game.
In Portland, Powell averaged 18.7 points on 46/41/80 shooting
splits and just 13.6 field goals per game. His field goal attempts
are slightly over Anfernee Simons’ 12.9 attempts per contest,
though he only averages 14.6 points by comparison — despite also
shooting an efficient line, 44/40/90. Why the difference? Powell
not only gets to the line five times per game, second only to
Lillard on the team, but his .365 free-throw rate leads all
non-centers on the roster. Additionally, Powell’s been a quality
pull-up shooter, ranking 16th in scoring efficiency, shooting with
an Effective Field Goal percentage of 64% in spot-up situations and
56% in transition, according to Synergy.
All of which are great signs if you’re 6-foot-3, which you can’t
say that often in this league.
Moreover, adding Powell removes the offensive strain on other
Clippers, like Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and the emerging Luke
Kennard especially — making them more potent on that end and,
ideally, not putting them in positions where 24-point comebacks are
all that necessary.
In theory, Covington will play a role on the Clippers, assuming
he remains on the team, but it feels more like short-term
insurance. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s spell it
out. Covington is on an expiring $13 million contract and will dive
into unrestricted free agency in a few months. Positionally, as a
theoretical stretch-four/three-and-D-wing, he has some duplication
for this Clippers roster, mainly George, Leonard, Morris and
Covington’s statistically having his worst season since entering
the league full-time, throwing out the seven games he played as a
rookie in 2012-13. In 30 minutes per contest, and 40 starts in 48
appearances, Covington’s averaging 7.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5
steals and 1.3 blocks per game, shooting 38/34/83, and while the
free-throw percentage is high, he’s only taken 36 this season, and
hasn’t cracked 150 since 2016-17. Covington will split time with
and see the floor beside other Clipper forwards, and just being on
a better team with a better coach should help settle his role.
Let’s also acknowledge that Covington could also be a part of
this deal because the Clippers may move Morris and or
Batum within the next few days. (Take it from me, Miami Heat fans
are already trying to figure out how to get one of them. If the
Clippers like Duncan Robinson – for Morris in particular – maybe
they’re in luck.) That’d open things up for Covington, and Powell
would replenish the scoring, albeit differently.
From a basketball perspective, the Blazers portion doesn’t need
an extensive breakdown, at least not on this piece — trust
me, fam. Hell, the move itself isn’t about their play as much as it
is cap mechanics. But in summation, it isn’t as bad as
some tweeters are pondering, depending on what follows.
As Marks outlined earlier, around 20% of Bledsoe’s $19.4 million
salary next season is guaranteed, so the Blazers could easily move
on from him. Winslow is only due $4 million next season, and Keon
Johnson was just picked in the first-round, so he’ll be cheap (by
NBA standards) through 2025, assuming all his options are picked
up. He’s played 135 total minutes this season and won’t turn 20 for
another month, so we’ll call him a project.
The move also places Portland under the luxury tax, per Marks,
and it also creates a $6.5 million trade exception.
The big question around Portland is, obviously, what happens to
Lillard. Question No. 1A is McCollum, but freeing Powell’s salary
and adding a trade exception aids the mechanics of making future
moves. The Blazers have short-term contracts to use — hell, they
could even re-route Bledsoe’s $18.1 million this season if they
wanted, or keep him on the books to use after the season since his
deal won’t be fully guaranteed until four days after the July
Jusuf Nurkić at $12 million and Larry Nance Jr. at $10.6 million
are also usable deals in trades to monitor, along with several
draft picks. So, for Portland, this trade is about what’s next more
than anything else. Maybe we’ll look back and say they got the
shaft at some point, but it’s too early to make that judgment. To
some degree, it may be for the Clippers as well, but they’re
clearly trying to be competitive now, and this should help
them get there.
These are two franchises going in different directions. The
Clippers, if they get healthy before the playoffs, should be taken
seriously as a contender, especially because there’s a world where
they get to the NBA Finals last season if Leonard doesn’t tear his
ACL in the postseason. For the Blazers, I mean … we’ll see.
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