After falling short again and firing head coach Terry Stotts, many believe that it may finally be time for the Portland Trail Blazers to rebuild. Teams have already put in calls about Damian Lillard’s availability, but it remains to be seen if Portland is ready for a major shakeup.
Lillard, 30, has remained very loyal to the Blazers. He has never complained about the lack of talent or shown frustration towards the organization, so the front office may ultimately be the ones who decide to trade him if they feel like it’s the correct business move, similar to what happened to Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City.
Since Lillard’s arrival, the Blazers have been to the playoffs eight times. They’ve had four first-round losses, including being swept twice, three second-round losses and only one Conference Finals appearance where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.
Their most recent first-round loss to the Denver Nuggets was far too disappointing, given that the Blazers were at full health, while the Nuggets were missing their second star, Jamal Murray. Eight straight playoffs downfalls should give them a reason to possibly start over. It seems pretty obvious that the backcourt duo of Lillard and C.J. McCollum hasn’t panned out, and it may be time to trade one or the other.
McCollum has three years, approximately $100 million still remaining on his contract, while Lillard has four years, $196 million with a player option for the final year. After sub-par performances, it may be tough to trade McCollum, which is why Lillard is the obvious choice for teams to pursue.
Outside of the two stars, Portland has quite a few free agents. Norman Powell and Derrick Jones Jr. have player options. Enes Kanter, Carmelo Anthony, and Harry Giles will become unrestricted free agents, while Zach Collins will become a restricted free agent. There is belief that Powell will surely get an extension, but the others aren’t guaranteed to return.
Jusuf Nurkic and Robert Covington have one more year left on their contract, which allows the Blazers to slowly start a rebuilding process this offseason. It would be ideal for them to stockpile draft picks and young players with Lillard and McCollum and use the cap flexibility for future moves.
The Blazers could grab a lot of assets trading Lillard since he has an extremely high value. It’s possible for the Blazers to get about three to four first-round picks in addition to a couple of young players for Lillard, which would give them a solid starting point for a rebuild.
McCollum could draw a couple of draft picks as well, but his contract will likely not allow the Blazers to maximize his value.
The Blazers have stayed quiet thus far regarding a rebuild. They may entertain the idea if the opportunity presents itself, meaning if they can get a lot in return for their star players.
However, if for some reason Lillard breaks his silence and loyalty, it could smell trouble for Portland. They could be in the same situation as the Houston Rockets, who held on to a disgruntled superstar in James Harden and didn’t have much leverage. Luckily for Portland, Lillard is under contract for a long time, which doesn’t give them a reason to rush things.
Will they ultimately cave and blow up the entire roster? It could definitely happen in the near future, so stay tuned.