The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the NBA’s most dynamic backcourt tandems in Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum. Terry Stotts is not considered elite among the coaching ranks, but he’s still done a pretty good job during the post-LaMarcus Aldridge era. Unfortunately, despite the backcourt and coaching stability, the Blazers remain a middle-of-the-pack team trying to work their way up to the upper-echelons of title contenders.

Portland currently has the seventh highest payroll in the NBA at $121.4 million – a figure that could swell up even more if they re-sign Noah Vonleh and Jusuf Nurkic next summer.

For a small market team like the Blazers, paying a huge amount of luxury tax bills is going to be tough.

There were times when small market ballclubs (the Cleveland Cavaliers as an example) had gone all in despite the luxury tax repercussions, but their owners took that financial risk because their teams were in position to have a deep playoff run. At the moment, the Blazers are far from being considered as a championship-caliber squad.

The Blazers have two options on the table. It’s either they go all the way with the same squad, finish somewhere between fifth to eight place in the West and get eliminated in the first-round of the playoffs. Or they pull off a drastic move by trading one of their key players for a certified game-changing player.

Trades are in most cases high-risk gambles. Last year, the Blazers rolled the dice by trading for Jusuf Nurkic and that gambit worked for them in the final 20 games of the 2017-18 NBA season. This season, Nurkic is still putting up solid numbers (15.6 ppg on 47 percent FG shooting with 7.3 rpg) as the third wheel behind Lillard and McCollum, but he clearly needs help in the frontline.

Moreover, the team direly lacks some scoring punch and playmaking on their second unit. It’s the reason why the Blazers are 17th in the league in offense (105.5 ppg) and 29th in assists (18.5 apg).

As the trade season (usually starts on Dec. 15) approaches, here are three realistic trade targets the Blazers should explore to get their campaign on the right track.

Jordan Clarkson (14.8 ppg on 50 percent FG/ 40 percent 3-point)

The former second round pick and All-Rookie first team member is having a resurging season after finally finding his niche as a scorer off the bench. He’s still a pretty efficient playmaker but his shift to a more aggressive offensive player makes him an intriguing trade targets for teams looking for a contributor in the mold of a prime Jamal Crawford and Lou Williams.

A package of Jake Layman ($1.3M) and expiring contracts of Shabaz Napier ($2.3M) and Ed Davis ($6.3M) for Clarkson ($11.5 million) works financially for both teams. Throw in a late first-rounder or second-round pick and it’s enough to make Magic Johnson say yes on the deal.

Julius Randle (11.8 ppg and 6.7 rpg in 19 minutes per game)

In an attempt to create enough cap space to lure in max-level free agents, the Lakers are willing to compromise their promising young players for a championship-ready roster next year. Randle is having the most efficient year in his career despite his relegation to the second unit.

NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Randle’s days with the Lakers are numbered because of the team’s obsession of landing top stars. He’s set to hit the free agency market next summer as a restricted free agent, but everybody expects the Lakers to let loose of him once they feel they have a shot at LeBron James and Paul George.

A straight-up swap involving Randle and Noah Vonleh could work for both ways.

Randle can still play off the bench until he gains the trust of the coaching staff, while Vonleh fills in the spot of Randle on the Lakers roster without compromising their future cap space.

Jahlil Okafor (5.0 ppg and 4.5 rpg)

While the Blazers could get him on a post-buyout market, it’s better to strike a deal with the Sixers now before rival teams start to make their move for this young player. Despite his defensive flaws and inability to hit the long-ball, there’s no denying that Okafor is a talented offensive bigman.

At 21, it’s too early to give up on the former lottery pick. Sure, Portland has multiple bigs who can’t also shoot and create spacing problem. Still, Okafor has a lot of untapped potential in him.

Perhaps, all it needs is good mentoring and plenty of minutes to develop his game. As far as the price of acquiring Okafor, Wojnarowski noted that the Sixers want a second-round pick in exchange for the bigman – which is something the Blazers could afford.