Mikal Bridges to the Trail Blazers shaping up to be just a fantasy

Mikal Bridges to the Trail Blazers shaping up to be just a fantasy

It’s appearing increasingly unlikely that the Portland Trail Blazers will land one of the more ideal lineup fits to place alongside Damian Lillard this offseason.

Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges would perfectly fill the gaping hole at small forward in the Blazers’ starting lineup by instantly providing a combination of defense, length and scoring the Blazers sorely need.

Plus, Bridges and Lillard are good pals.

Unfortunately for Rip City, the 6-foot-6 Bridges appears to be unavailable. Or, maybe available for an offer that the Nets simply could not refuse.

NBA sources have told The Oregonian/OregonLive that Bridges to Portland is “unlikely” to happen. And for good reason. The Nets landed a gem in Bridges, whom they acquired in the trade-deadline deal that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns and landed Brooklyn four first-round picks and two other players. (I tweaked the wording, so please double-check that this is right.)

Bridges, 26, went from averaging 17.2 points on 13.6 shots per game in Phoenix to putting up 26.1 points per game for the Nets on 18.6 shots. Bridges, named to the NBA’s All-Defensive team during the 2021-22 season, looks like a future All-Star with the Nets. Plus, he has a team-friendly contract. He is scheduled to average $23.3 million over the next three seasons.

The only logical reason the Nets could have for trading Bridges at all, let alone to Portland, would be if they received an offer that they would be foolish to turn down.

A package featuring Anfernee Simons and the No. 3 pick in June’s NBA draft would seem to be a strong enough start to at least get some discussions going. But Alex Schiffer of The Athletic reported that the Nets were not interested in a deal for the No. 3 pick and Simons, or Sharpe.

Change that “or,” to “and,” and the Nets would likely bite. Obtaining a top-three pick, Simons and Sharpe could be considered the type of deal the Nets could not refuse.

But the Blazers would be equally as foolish to make such an offer. It’s simply too much to give up.

It should be noted that it’s more than conceivable that Simons, had he been traded to the Nets and become the focal point of the offense, would have put up similar numbers to what Bridges managed after taking over as the No. 1 option.

PORTLAND, OREGON – OCTOBER 21: Anfernee Simons #1 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles against Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns in overtime at Moda Center on October 21, 2022 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

And while Bridges brings more to the court defensively than the 6-3 Simons, it’s not enough to be worth Simons, the No. 3 pick and Sharpe.

It’s unfortunate that Simons and the pick seemingly wouldn’t get a deal done. The Blazers could start Lillard, Sharpe, Bridges, Jerami Grant and Jusuf Nurkic, unless he ends up getting moved.

That’s a formidable starting lineup with plenty of offense, added defense and more length than the team had last year.

However, rebounding could be an issue. The 6-5 Josh Hart was a rebounding marvel (8.2 per game) last season before being traded to New York. That helped compensate for Grant averaging just 4.5 rebounds at the power forward spot. Truth be told, any NBA power forward should get 4.5 rebounds per game simply by just standing around and waiting for some of the 46 combined missed three-pointers per game to bounce their way.

Bridges averaged just 4.5 rebounds last season with the Nets. Getting about nine combined rebounds per game from the forward spots would definitely be an issue. One of them would have to step up their game in that area.

Still, it’s a problem that the Blazers would likely consider dealing with for the right price.

Now, it’s possible that the Nets could be posturing in order to get more out of the Blazers. Maybe No. 3, Simons and the No. 23 pick.

But at least for now, it appears that the price of Simons and the No. 3 pick for Bridges isn’t right for the Nets.

— Aaron Fentress | afentress@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook). Subscribe to Oregonian/OregonLive newsletters and podcasts

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