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Report: Lillard wants to play with Simmons, changes to Trail Blazers roster

Detroit Pistons v Portland Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OREGON - NOVEMBER 30: CJ McCollum #3 of the Portland Trail Blazers dribbles against the Detroit Pistons during the first quarter at Moda Center on November 30, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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Neil Olshey has long been reticent to trade CJ McCollum. It’s not just that McCollum is a borderline All-Star, Olshey’s ego was involved: Drafted him out of little-known Lehigh, developed him, this was his find, his guy.

Despite that, there were talks on some level about a McCollum for Ben Simmons trade last offseason, but those talks went nowhere. Like all the Simmons’ trade talks. Philadelphia GM Daryl Morey asked for a Harden-like haul (three first-round picks and three pick swaps) and Ben Simmons is no James Harden. Olshey rightfully walked away.

Now Olshey is out and a frustrated Lillard wants roster changes in Portland — the ones he wanted last offseason but Olshey said the roster was not the problem. That could re-open the door for the McCollum for Simmons talks, reports Sam Amick and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Multiple sources have told The Athletic that Lillard would like to play with Philadelphia 76ers three-time All-Star Ben Simmons. The Trail Blazers’ league-worst defense would instantly improve, and sharing a backcourt with a non-shooter could work given Lillard’s high-volume usage.

Sources say the Trail Blazers, under Olshey, discussed the framework of a trade for Simmons, moving CJ McCollum, a first-round draft pick and a young player such as Nassir Little or Anfernee Simons to Philadelphia. The 76ers, sources said, at one point asked the Trail Blazers for McCollum and multiple draft picks and multiple draft swaps, which Portland rejected.

First, Morey will ask for Lillard, but that’s not happening. No matter who the next GM of the Trail Blazers is — Joe Cronin is the interim GM — Portland will not trade Lillard unless he asks to be traded. He is a Portland icon and the face of the franchise. The Athletic reports that Lillard wants to give the new front office a chance.

Lillard did fire back at another part of the report on Twitter: That there are growing tensions between Trial Blazers players and coach Chauncey Billups.

McCollum, Simons, and a first-round pick is about as good as it will get in a Simmons trade — especially with McCollum having the best season of his career (20.6 points per game, 39.6% from 3). McCollum and Seth Curry would be redundant for the 76ers, but having too much shooting and too many good guards is a problem for Doc Rivers to figure out. Plus, Anfernee Simons can play. Would Morey reduce his asking price to this level? He hasn’t yet.

Does Simmons next to Lillard bump the Trail Blazers to the top of the West? No. If Jusuf Nurkic suddenly becomes a consistent version of the All-Star version of himself this team becomes more of a threat, but nobody’s betting on that.

However, change is needed in the Northwest. Olshey was wrong: This roster does not fit in Portland, especially with the aggressive defensive style Billups wants to play. Changes have to be made, this could be a big start.

Whether it’s Simmons or other moves, expect changes to come in Portland as we approach the trade deadline.