“I don’t disagree that maybe Chauncey [Billups, the new Portland coach] can change our team and make us a better team. But I think if you look at our team as it is, I don’t see how you say ‘this is a championship team, we just need a new coach….’ We need to be more urgent… we have made the playoffs all these years, we’re a good team, we’re not a bad team, but it’s reached the point where we have to ask ‘have we done enough?'”
Damian Lillard has not asked for a trade out of Portland, but in the quote above — and others like it — he made it clear that he wants to see a sense of urgency and boldness from the Trail Blazers front office to make this team better. Where is Portland’s version of the Jrue Holiday trade for Milwaukee?
If Portland is to make a big move, it likely would involve CJ McCollum, by far the player who would bring the most in return (and the new players’ union president). However, Portland is making no such moves, reports Jason Quick of The Athletic.
The obvious and easiest path to acquire talent is trading shooting guard CJ McCollum. Not only can his $30.8 million salary bring back a player, or players, of value, but also Portland already has his replacement in Powell, who is a natural shooting guard. That would allow Portland to explore landing an upgrade at small forward or power forward (Robert Covington can play both forward positions).
But it sounds like Portland is not actively shopping McCollum. I don’t know whether that is because Portland doesn’t agree with how teams value McCollum, or whether Neil Olshey is overly infatuated with him, but the general tone I’ve heard is the Blazers won’t move him just to have a different look next season. The trade has to make them better, and so far, other teams haven’t met that bar.
The buzz around the league has been that Philadelphia is not really interested in a McCollum for Ben Simmons trade, and Portland isn’t giving up the picks the 76ers want in that deal.
Portland’s moves have been to swap out Cody Zeller in place of Enis Kanter and add Ben McLemore — just moves tinkering around the edges of the roster. In his postseason press conference, Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey laid the blame for the team’s defensive struggles and stagnation on outgoing coach Terry Stotts. That led to eye rolls around the league, but the team’s offseason moves have reinforced that basic belief that this team is already good enough.
This is why a lot of teams around the league are monitoring the Lillard situation. He likely starts the season in a Trail Blazers uniform, but when reality hits… we’ll see what comes next.