The NBA offseason doesn’t start until there’s speculation regarding an All-Star caliber player being dealt.
For the 2021 edition of the offseason, much speculation has surrounded Damian Lillard. Along with him, there’s also been mention of CJ McCollum being dealt as a piece to help improve the roster around Lillard.
It’s an interesting situation for Lillard, McCollum, and the Blazers.
If the team trades Lillard, they’re admitting to their inability to create a championship contender around the 31-year-old. Trading Lillard could lead to the going full rebuild and dealing away McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic while their value is high.
Keeping Lillard creates a situation where the team is pressed against the clock to make something. Their best asset to trade is McCollum and Nurkic. The follow-up question is who could the team actually get in return that’ll make them take that next jump.
As of now, those needle-moving players are secured with their current teams.
What makes matters even more difficult is Lillard’s 4-year, $196 million, and McCollum’s 3-year, $100 million extensions begin this season. Meaning if either player wants out, a trade has to happen.
Both players are at the top of their games and it doesn’t seem like they’d turn into bad contracts on a new team.
Right now the Blazers are reportedly turning down offers including draft picks for McCollum, per The Athletic’s Jason Quick. Their draft pick rejection could potentially signal the team is focusing on acquiring a player with their hope of still being a contender.
As for Lillard, he’s been linked to numerous teams but has made no decision yet and has met with GM Neil Olshey and head coach Chauncey Billups.
One team reportedly out of the picture is Lillard’s hometown Warriors, per Marcus Thompson of The Athletic.
Lillard is from that area and the Warriors currently hold two lottery picks, a young prospect in James Wiseman, and maybe Andrew Wiggins could be in the deal.
Although joining the Warriors may not be of interest to Lillard, of all the teams reportedly interested in him, heading home could give him the best chance to win immediately.
Should the Blazers trade McCollum, Portland will likely re-sign Norman Powell to start at shooting guard. The trade deadline acquisition started at small forward to end the 2020-21 season but he’s likely too undersized to play the 3 full-time for a team making a deep postseason run. Powell declined his player option, becoming an unrestricted free agent and plans to ask for a deal that’ll pay him over $20 million per year.
It'll be interesting if any movement is made regarding either player being dealt by next week's draft. If not then, maybe when Lillard returns another conversation will be had. By then it'll be August and the Blazers will have an idea of what team they'll be entering next season with.