After spending his first 4 years in a Blazers jersey, Portland traded their 6th man Allen Crabbe to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Andrew Nicholson who was subsequently waived. Facing a hefty luxury tax bill the Blazers decided it best to move Crabbe’s salary in order to avoid paying one of the league’s highest payrolls for a fringe playoff team.
While the trade makes a great deal of sense financially, the Blazers on-court product will suffer for it. As 6th man in Portland last season, Crabbe averaged 10.7 points per game playing 28.5 minutes a night, all while shooting an impressive 44.4% from distance.
Last season the Blazer bench was ranked 27th in bench scoring in the NBA with just 30.7 points per game. Without Crabbe and without any non-rookie additions, Portland’s bench play will take a staggering blow. Unfortunately no Blazer other than Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, or Jusuf Nurkic have proven they can be a legitimate offensive option.
The former backup Blazer wing will be missed for more than his scoring alone. Crabbe’s ability to space the floor and create room for his teammates to work within may be missed even more. Outside of Lillard, McCollum and Shabazz Napier, no Blazer shot better than 35% from 3-point range. Losing Crabbe not only hurts from a bench points per game standpoint, but it also hurts Terry Stotts’ ability to run his offense that relies on spacing and his players hitting open shots.
Trading Crabbe may seem at first glance like a small move in order to save a great deal of money. In reality, the Crabbe trade may end up costing Portland a playoff spot come April as teams like Denver, Minnesota, and arguably New Orleans made strides towards the goal. All while Portland whose bench struggled last season traded away their biggest bench piece.
Some combination of Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, and Noah Vonleh will be the starting forwards, and the other two will be coming off the bench. Meaning the Blazers could possibly be playing with a bench of Turner, Vonleh, Napier, and Ed Davis. Rookies Caleb Swanigan and Zach Collins may provide some bench relief, but it remains to be seen how ready they are to contribute right away. If the Blazers are relying on Evan Turner to be their primary offensive option off of the bench, the bench will be in worse shape than last season.
Long story short, Portland has a very strong core in Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic, but outside of that lack much ability to score. Having bench players that can score is wildly important for any successful NBA season.
What do you think? Will the loss of Crabbe be too much for the Blazers and their bench? Does Portland have a realistic shot at the playoffs after losing such a large piece of their already struggling bench? Let me know!