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Trail Blazers weather storm with Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 2: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers smiles during open practice on October 2nd at the Moda Center 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Report after report after report emerged about Damian Lillard’s dissatisfaction with the Trail Blazers this summer. Given multiple opportunities to explain his commitment to the franchise, Lillard declined. That seemed telling for someone who previously went out of his way to espouse his loyalty to Portland.

After this turbulent summer, Lillard remaining with the Trail Blazers is no small consideration. How long he’ll stay, who knows?

But Portland did its part to satisfy Lillard in the best ways available to a team with a win-now superstar – spend and trade future picks.

Re-signing Norman Powell (five years, $90 million) was imperative. The capped-out Trail Blazers had no reasonable way to replace him.

Larry Nance Jr. was a strong addition for just a lottery-protected first-round pick and Derrick Jones Jr.'s expiring contract. Portland badly needed a defensive-forward like him, and his shooting and screening will be welcome offensively. He can also play small-ball center, unlocking a different element behind Jusuf Nurkic.

Though not stoppers, Cody Zeller and Tony Snell are major defensive upgrades to a bench that featured Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony.

The Trail Blazers probably could have further upgraded their bench if using the mid-level exception beyond a sliver to sign No. 43 pick Greg Brown to a three-year contract. Portland got Zeller, Snell, Brown, Ben McLemore and Dennis Smith Jr. (who outlasted Patrick Patterson, Quinn Cook and Marquese Chriss) on just minimum salaries.

But the Trail Blazers at least spent over the luxury-tax line (though they could dodge the tax before it’s assessed the last day of the regular season). They also paid $2 million and sent their own 2026 second-rounder to get Brown from the Pelicans (though he looks like a project).

Portland hopes its biggest defensive gains come from their coaching change from Terry Stotts to Chauncey Billups. Though his message appeared to have grown stale, Stotts set a fairly high bar. Relatively new to the profession, Billups must hit the ground running with an established team. The organization put him in a tough spot with its bungled hiring process. But Billups has the basketball intelligence and emotional intelligence to navigate his way through.

Ultimately, Lillard will decide whether the Trail Blazers’ offseason was good enough. “I’m not leaving PDX – not right now, at least” is hardly a ringing endorsement. Another first-round loss looks likely.

But Lillard, a sensational leader, appears reinvested. Time and time again, he has put the Trail Blazers on his back. He could do it again.

With a better supporting cast, he might carry Portland further.

Offseason grade: B