The Blazers are entering possibly the biggest free agency period in the Damian Lillard era.
With Lillard publicly saying he and the Blazers are working towards a solution regarding his future, the onus is on the team to appease their star. That process starts Monday evening with the free agency period.
Here’s a breakdown of the Blazers’ free agents and much more.
Norman Powell, Carmelo Anthony, Zach Collins, and Enes Kanter are the notable Blazers free agents.
The focus for the Blazers is Powell. He turned down his $11.6 million player option for the 2021-’22 season and is rightfully expecting a pay raise. Coming off a season averaging 18.6 points on 47.7% shooting and 39.9% from the three-point line warrants a raise. The question is how much?
He’s established himself as the third offensive player next to Lillard and CJ McCollum and as the team’s primary perimeter defender at times next to Robert Covington. It’s currently expected he’ll return to the Blazers.
As for Anthony, he’s coming offseason as their sixth man and averaged over 13 points on a career-high 40% from three. His respectable performance from the pine was coupled with Kanter’s double-doubles.
Both Anthony and Kanter were the bright spots for the Blazers’ bench. Although Anthony’s time in Portland could be over as he’s being linked to joining the Lakers.
Then there’s Collins. He was sidelined for yet another season due to injury and has unfortunately earned a reputation as being injury-prone, especially after re-fracturing his foot during the offseason.
The team didn’t extend a $7 million qualifying offer his way, which would’ve made him a restricted free agent. It seems unlikely he’ll return to Portland, but anything during free agency seems possible.
Along with Powell, the Blazers may be in a situation to bring back Kanter. He hasn’t been reportedly linked to any teams and has voiced on multiple occasions his interest in rejoining the team.
Harry Giles and Rondae-Hollis Jefferson are the other Blazer free agents. Also, after the past season, the team finished paying Anderson Varejao $1.9 million. The team still owes Andrew Nicholson $8.4 million until 2024.
What to expect
To keep Lillard satisfied long-term, the team needs to position itself to make a splash. That won’t be by signing a free agent, but acquiring someone via trade. That’s more difficult than signing because the assets need to be liked by the opposing general manager.
The only main asset the team has is McCollum, who begins his 3-year, $100 million extension this season.
For the team to make a significant upgrade, the public idea has been to part with McCollum. Mainly because of him being an undersized scorer and playmaker. The league is all about wings, and for the team to enter legitimate title contention they’ll need to acquire one. Where the problem lies is none are known to be available publicly, making things more difficult.
It’s a weird quandary to be in. Possibly trade your franchise player because the team isn’t fit to win a championship. Or trade the star player's No. 2 option in hopes of acquiring a player better than him.
The reality of the situation is simple: it’s highly unlikely the team will acquire a needle-moving player. Those would be the elite players like Lillard. This means the team will more than likely enter next season identical to who they were a season ago. Unless Lillard requests a trade and the team decides to deal him and McCollum.
A situation in trading their starting guards would position the team with a trove of picks as they’d be in the lottery for the next few years.
There’s a lot of possibilities this offseason, but what should be expected is the team trying to make upgrades and succeeding but nothing to make title contenders.
Although weird things can happen in the league, as of right now, the weirdness is at a minimum.