CJ McCollum (Photo : NBAE via Getty Images)
CJ McCollum could emerge as a trade chip for the Portland Trail Blazers to acquire another star like Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
The Blazers' hopes of returning to the postseason could become blurry as the team continues to struggle racking up wins. While it is too early to assess the team's campaign at this point, Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated believes trading for a star could immediately fix Portland's struggles albeit at a steep price.
"If you're going to try and acquire another star, you've got to figure McCollum has to be in the package to do that," Golliver told John Canzano of the Oregonian.
The Blazers have been linked to Cousins during the offseason, and the Kings center's increasing availability could open up trade possibilities for Portland. ESPN's Marc Stein believes Portland's pile of tradable assets could lead to a blockbuster move before the deadline.
"The suspicion among numerous league observers is that the Blazers' non-stop spending this past offseason was asset collection as much as anything. Scan through all those names again and it's clear Portland has no shortage of options to thrust itself into all kinds of trade talks as GM Neil Olshey continues to shape the roster around backcourt bedrocks Lillard and C.J. McCollum," Stein wrote.
However, McCollum seems like the only best trade chip the Blazers could use to net a star in return. Other pieces like Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless could also be potential pieces, but both are performing well under very friendly contracts. Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe could also emerge as trade chips, although teams could be cautious acquiring underperformers on overpaid deals.
Nevertheless, McCollum appears exactly what the Kings would want in return for Cousins. The 2016 Most Improved Player of the Year is poised for another breakout season, with McCollum averaging a career-high 22.2 points per game, while shooting a staggering 46.9 percent from the field, including 44 percent from beyond the arc. With no other go-to-guy in Sacramento, McCollum can become the new face of the franchise.
On the other hand, a talented big man like Cousins would do wonders for the Blazers. Cousins, who is averaging 28.7 points and 10.4 rebound a game this season, would give the Blazers another scoring threat, forming one of the deadliest pick-and-rolls in the league with Damian Lillard.
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has insisted he has no interest in trading Cousins, despite the team yet again on course for a disappointing season. But as Sean Deveney of Sporting News reported a few weeks ago, executives around the league believes it is only a matter of time before the Kings move Cousins.
"I'd say they have three months, tops," one NBA general manager told Sporting News. "Probably more like a month, or month-and-a-half, because the closer they get to the (February trade) deadline, the less they're going to get back. If you're trying to trade him the week of the deadline, it's going to be tougher."
It remains to be seen whether the Blazers would consider such blockbuster move at this stage of the season. McCollum has played an essential role in the team's success in the past season, and keeping him should also help them compete at a high level this season. But if Cousins' availability becomes crystal clear, it is a deal worth considering for the Blazers.
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