As a part of our series detailing which players the Charlotte Hornets should target in NBA free agency, our attention shifts to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers finished with a 27-55 record, which earned them a 13th-place finish in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard missed the majority of the season due to an abdominal injury, and Portland wound up being major sellers at the trade deadline thanks to their lackluster record.
The Blazers hold no team or player options during the 2022 offseason, so they are going to have to make decisions in an open free agent market. While unrestricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic has already been seen as a potential Hornets target, there may be another Blazer or two that catches the eyes of Charlotte’s front office.
Keljin Blevins, Elijah Hughes, CJ Elleby, and Anfernee Simons round out the Blazers’ 2022 class of restricted free agents. As the Blazers tanked game after game to close the year, each player saw their fair share of playing time.
Simons is the big name in this group. The 22-year-old guard proved that he can not only score at an elite level, but that he can also play point guard in a pinch. Despite clear size and defensive issues, he will fetch a massive contract after blowing up towards the end of the 2021-22 campaign. Unfortunately, he will be out of the Hornets’ price range.
Other than Nurkic, the remaining unrestricted free agents on the Blazers’ roster include Joe Ingles and Ben McLemore. Ingles is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, and McLemore is entering free agency after a middling season with an under-manned Blazers squad.
For the Hornets, neither of these guys should be a priority target. Ingles’ age and injury are major red flags, and McLemore’s streaky offensive play and nonexistent defensive play make him an incompatible fit on a Hornets team that is trying to improve on their spotty defense.
Nurkic is the name that Charlotte has to go for. Even if it involves a sign-and-trade, the Hornets have to throw their hat in the ring for one of the best free agent big men in 2022.