PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers got their man.
The Blazers acquired Denver guards Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee in a five player deal on Thursday, hours before the NBA trade deadline.
“Arron met every single criteria that we established,” said Blazers president of basketball of operations Neil Olshey. “I think our veteran players are ready to add him. It gives us a better chance to win at a higher level. That’s the goal this year. We are in a win now mode. We are in a window here. We want to keep this group together.”
The Blazers traded away Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a protected future first round pick. The Blazers will have their pick in this year’s draft, but Denver will get their pick in 2016 or 2017, so long as the Blazers do not slip to the lottery. If the first round picks are not conveyed in 2016 or 2017, it becomes two second round picks in 2018 and 2019.
The mood at the Blazers practice facility was dour, both because of the sudden passing of franchise legend Jerome Kersey and farewell’s to close friends.
But there is no doubt the Blazers got better as a team Thursday, adding wing depth that has been absent from the Blazers for the last few seasons.
Afflalo averaged 14.5 points per game and shot 34 percent from the 3-point line in Denver. His numbers haven’t been spectacular. But nor have the Nuggets, a team whose coach abandoned traditional morning shoot around so players could sleep in later.
Afflalo has been a starter in every game he’s played over the last five seasons. He has shown an ability to score the basketball and defend his position well. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard has a back-to-the-basket game and can come off screens to hurt opposing defenses.
“In some ways he’s very similar to Wes (Matthews),” head coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s an excellent 3-point shooter. He will run the wing, get out in transition, excellent spot up shooter. He’ll post up when he has a favorable match-up. So in someways, defensively, Wes and Arron are comparable in some of the things they can do.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Matthews said. “It’s not like what we do is rocket science. We play basketball. We’ll figure it out.”
Added Stotts: “I look at Wes, Nic and Arron as rotating at the 2-3 spot. I think Arron can play with Wes, I think he can play with Nic.”
Gee has played in 39 games for the Nuggets and is shooting 42 percent from the 3-point line in limited attempts.
“Alonzo’s unique,” Olshey said. “We have a lot of guys that make shots on our team. But he guards 3 positions, he’s an NBA caliber athlete. He’s a tough kid and excited about being here and has a chance to compete.”
The writing was on the wall for Thomas Robinson back in October when the team declined to pick up his team option for the 2015-16 season.
Barton has barely seen the floor after performing well in last year’s playoffs.
Claver has been inactive for most of the last two seasons. All three players will be unrestricted free agents this summer.
“That wasn’t easy,” Olshey said of having to send away players who had been here for several seasons.
CJ McCollum had started to find consistent playing time, but at least on the wing, it appears that there won’t be much time to go around.
While Afflalo will come off the bench for the first time in five seasons, Olshey says he’s fine with coming off the bench.
“I think we all realized at a certain point as you get older in the league when you have a chance to win, that trumps whether you’re the first one to run out of the tunnel or not.”