PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The Portland Trail Blazers are trading CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr. and Tony Snell to the New Orleans Pelicans, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Blazers will receive Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a protected 2022 first-round pick from the Pelicans and two second-round picks.
If the first-round pick lands between No. 5 and No. 14 this year, it will convey to the Blazers. If not, Portland will receive a future first-round pick from New Orleans, Wojnarowski reports. Portland also created a $21 million trade exception with the trade, according to Wojnarowski.
“Portland’s plan is to fully reshape roster around Damian Lillard now,” Wojnarowski tweeted. “Portland created a $21M trade exception today, potentially $60M in salary cap space this summer, multiple draft picks and assets via Pels and Clippers trades. Plan is to pursue high-end talent now, not retreat.”
McCollum will join a Pelicans team that is trying to build a playoff team around a strong core of Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valanciunas and rookie Herb Jones. The Pelicans (21-32) have won three in a row and recently moved past the Blazers into 10th place in the Western Conference, the final play-in spot in the conference.
McCollum is averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds this season. Nance Jr. averaged 6.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23.2 minutes per game this season for Portland. Snell averaged 2.6 points in 14.4 minutes per game for the Blazers.
“End of an era for the Trail Blazers and their McCollum-Damian Lillard backcourt,” Charania wrote. “Portland worked to acquire assets in McCollum deal and send him to a good situation.”
Hart is 26 years old (he turns 27 on March 6). The 6-foot-5, 215-pound wing can play shooting guard and small forward. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 33.5 minutes per game this season for the Pelicans. For his career, Hart has shot 44.6% from the field and 34.5% from the 3-point line. A strong defensive player, Hart has had a positive defensive box score plus-minus each season of his career. Hart is making $12 million this season. Next season, Hart’s $12.96 million salary is non-guaranteed. If the Blazers exercise that option, Hart has a player option for the 2023-24 season for $12.96 million.
Alexander-Walker is 23 years old and was the 17th pick in the 2019 NBA draft. A 6-6, 205-pound guard, he’s averaging 12.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 26.3 minutes per game this season. For his career, has has shot 38.9% from the field and 33% from 3. Alexander-Walker has a team option for $5 million on the final year of his rookie contract next season.
Satoransky, a 6-7, 210-pound guard, is 30 years old. He’s averaged 7.0 points and 4.0 assists in his career, and is included in the trade mostly for salary matching purposes. He’s making $10 million but isn’t signed past this season.
Louzada, 23, is a 6-5 small forward who was drafted in the second round of the 2019 NBA draft. He’s played in only five games with the Pelicans the past two seasons, averaging 2.7 points. He’s making $1.79 million this season, $1.88 million next season and the Blazers then have team options on the contract in 2023-24 and 2024-25.
Blazers say goodbye to one of the best players in franchise history
If the trade is finalized Tuesday, McCollum will end his Blazers’ tenure with the fifth-most points (10,710) in team history. Only Terry Porter (11,330), LaMarcus Aldridge (12,562), Lillard (17,510) and Clyde Drexler (18,040) scored more. McCollum also ranks second in team history in 3-pointers with 1,297, behind Damian Lillard’s 2,143.
McCollum was the Blazers’ second-most tenured player behind Lillard. The Blazers selected McCollum with the 10th pick in the 2013 draft, one year after they picked Lillard sixth overall in 2012. But it took a couple years before McCollum made an impact with the Blazers. His rookie season, McCollum sat out the first six weeks with a foot injury and was buried on the depth chart. He played only 38 games his rookie season, averaging 5.3 points in 12.5 minutes per game.
His second season, the 2014-15 season, McCollum was still behind starting shooting guard Wes Matthews on the depth chart and after the Blazers traded for Arron Afflalo at the deadline, McCollum’s playing time took another hit. Through the first 43 games of the season, McCollum averaged 4.6 points in just 12.3 minutes per game. But after Matthews suffered a season-ending injury in March, McCollum seized his opportunity. Afflalo moved into the starting lineup but McCollum took on a larger reserve role. In the final 20 games of the season, McCollum averaged 11.8 points in 23.3 minutes, shooting 49.2% from the field and 39% from 3. The Blazers lost in five games to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, but McCollum broke out in the final three games of that series, averaging 25.7 points in 33.4 minutes per game, shooting 60.9% from the field and 64.7% from 3.
After that season, the Blazers reset the roster around Lillard and McCollum. He started 80 games at shooting guard during the 2015-16 season and was named the Most Improved Player, averaging 20.8 points while establishing himself as one of the best shooters and scorers in the game. Since the 2015-16 season, when McCollum moved into the starting lineup, he has averaged 21.8 points, 3.9 assists, 3.8 rebounds in 461 career games, while shooting 45.5% from the field and 39.8% from 3.
With Lillard and McCollum at the helm, the Blazers enjoyed regular-season success, averaging 44 wins from 2015-16 through last season. The Blazers made the playoffs eight seasons in a row and were twice the third seed in the Western Conference (in 2018 and 2019). Portland didn’t enjoy much success in the playoffs with Lillard and McCollum, though, with a 16-30 record since 2015-16. They lost in the first round four times. The exception was the 2018-19 season, when the Blazers made the Western Conference finals. McCollum was a big part of that playoff run.
In the Blazers’ first-round playoff series win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lillard stole the show with his performance, including the celebrated 37-foot shot to send the Thunder home, but McCollum was every bit the second star Portland needed in that series, averaging 24.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 36.5 minutes, while shooting 45.5% from the field and 44.7% from 3.
McCollum was even better in the second round, a thrilling seven-game series against the Nuggets. He averaged 26.4 points in 42 minutes per game during that series and saved the best for last. Facing elimination in Game 7 on the road in Denver, McCollum put the Blazers on his back and carried them to the Western Conference finals, scoring 37 points in 45 minutes. He made 17 of 29 shots from the field in that game, a game in which Portland had to rally from a 17-point deficit to earn the 100-96 win. In one of the most memorable moments of his career, McCollum chased down Denver guard Jamal Murray and blocked a layup attempt with 4:44 left in the game and the Blazers clinging to an 87-83 lead. Then in the final 90 seconds, McCollum hit two clutch midrange jumpers to help the Blazers hold off the Nuggets. McCollum’s 37 points set a franchise record for points in a Game 7.
The Blazers and McCollum ran out of gas in the Western Conference finals, a four-game sweep against the Golden State Warriors. McCollum averaged 22 points in the conference finals but struggled with his shot, shooting 39.3% from the floor and 35.5% from 3. But it was a playoff run Blazers fans will always remember and McCollum played a critical role in each series victory.
Jared Cowley is the digital executive producer at KGW and co-host of KGW’s 3-on-3 Blazers podcast with Orlando Sanchez. Follow him on Twitter @jaredcowley.
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