Blazers Get Good Grades For Vonleh Trade

by Casey Holdahl
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Assigning a "grade" to a trade almost immediately after the deal is announced is typically a foolhardy endeavor. It's difficult to gauge how a player is going to fit in with his new team before a single possession has been played, so declaring winners and losers before that point is generally an act of speculation rather than useful analysis.

But some trades are so straight forward that the positives and negatives can be assessed almost immediately. Such is the case for the lone deal the Trail Blazers executed prior to Thursday's trade deadline, which sent Noah Vonleh and cash to the Chicago Bulls for the rights to Milovan Rakovic. Considering that Vonleh had fallen out of the rotation and Rakovic is never likely to make his way to Portland, let alone the NBA, the sole purpose of the deal for the Trail Blazers was to trim enough salary to get under the luxury tax. Given the specifics, it's rather easy to grade the trade, at least from Portland's perspective.

So here's how some of the national media came down in terms of grading the  trade...

Kevin Pelton, ESPN...

Portland Trail Blazers: A

Barring the Blazers making a bigger move to shed salary, dealing Vonleh was the logical way for them to duck the luxury tax. Having traded Allen Crabbe last summer, Portland managed to go from a potentially huge tax bill to avoiding the tax altogether without having to give up anything but cash considerations.

Because he's in the last year of his contract, trading Vonleh won't help the Blazers with their future tax crunch. They also won't likely miss him.

Through the course of his two-plus years in Portland, Vonleh showed flashes of making good on the potential that led the Charlotte Hornets to draft him No. 9 overall in 2014. However, he never was effective enough on a consistent basis to establish himself as part of the Blazers' future. Rookie Zach Collins took Vonleh's rotation spot this season, and Vonleh had played just 56 minutes since Dec. 16.

Dan Favale, Bleacher Report...

Blazers: B+


Cost-evasive maneuvers often come at a premium. The Blazers, for their part, eschewed this year's luxury tax while dumping a free-agent-to-be who fell out of the rotation and creating a roster spot that'll come in extra handy on the developing buyout market.

Owner Paul Allen shouldn't be hearing any complaints from Damian Lillard.

Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated...

(Note: Golliver didn't exactly grade the trade, though he did have Blazers fans as one of his "losers" of the trade deadline.)

Rip City spent the trade deadline suffering through yet another reminder of Neil Olshey’s misguided 2016 spending spree.

Rather than adding talent for a potential push into the West’s top four or off-loading one of the cap-clogging contracts on its books (Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, or Moe Harkless), the Blazers had to settle for a pure salary dump of Noah Vonleh. That move brought Portland below the luxury tax line—a clear financial win—but it did little to relieve the fan base’s feelings of gridlock and stagnation. The 22-year-old Vonleh never found a clear role in Portland after arriving in a trade for Nicolas Batum, but most teams would prefer continuing to develop him rather than moving him for nothing.

The quiet deadline did little to solve Portland’s immediate concerns (improving its playoff positioning) or its long-term issues (a salary cap that’s jammed up through 2020). Instead, the Blazers remain lodged in a respectable but aimless state that gets more maddening the longer it drags.

Chris Barnewall, CBS Sports...

Portland Trail Blazers: B-

It's OK if you thought this was a made-up name, but it's not. Milovan Rakovich is the 60th overall pick from the 2007 NBA Draft. He's spent his entire career in Europe and at 32 years old, he is probably not coming over to the league anytime soon. By making this move, the Blazers received cap relief to get under the luxury tax.

This is a smart move by Portland. They didn't need Vonleh, and they certainly aren't a team that should be paying the luxury tax, so passing him off to save some money will be beneficial to them.