Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum had a career season in 2020-21 averaging 23.1 points and 4.7 assists on 45.8%-40.2%-81.2% shooting splits. In fact, if not for a freak ankle injury, McCollum may have made his first All-Star game due to his incredible beginning of the year.
However, after a fourth first-round exit in five seasons, the Trail Blazers and Terry Stotts mutually parted ways but the organizational changes may not end there.
During a media session Monday, Bleacher Report's Sean Highkin asked Neil Olshey if his stance of breaking up Dame and CJ remains unchanged. Rather than affirm it, Olshey deflected.
"You've been here a while. Has anything we've ever done gotten out in public before it's happened in regards to trades or free agency. We don't discuss our players in a public forum, it's not fair to them. It's not what we do here... but we also understand this is a business.
That's a far different tone than he's had previously, where he deemed the tandem of McCollum and Lillard nearly untradeable.
"The odds of anything ever coming up of commensurate value is so hard to even fathom. I could give you the trite answer that nobody is untradeable, but clearly, they are," said Olshey after being swept by Golden State in the 2017 Playoffs.
With Lillard entering his age-31 season, the clock is ticking for Portland to put a contending team around him. With reason to believe the team has reached its ceiling with a backcourt of Lillard and McCollum, it's logical to think the Blazers will explore McCollum trades this offseason to put a different roster around Dame.
Given the Blazers have Norman Powell's bird rights, too, Portland can move him to the two if a McCollum trade does not get back a starting shooting guard.
But, unfortunately for Portland, a trade package for McCollum will likely be underwhelming.
McCollum enters year-one of a three-year, $100 million contract extension next season, which appears to be an overpay.
The Athletic's John Hollinger reports "most of the league sees him as a slightly negative value at that money" even if he's a "plus starter." Hollinger's BORD$ valuation has McCollum giving $26.6 million of value next season based on his 2020-21 season.
Given McCollum apparently has negative trade value, the Blazers may just need to roll with the same starting roster next season and hope a new coach can overhaul the defense to catapult the team up the Western Conference standings.
Monday, Olshey said the Blazers have "80 percent of our starting lineup under contract and returning absolutely." He added the atrocious defensive rating (29th in the NBA) was "not a product of the roster."
“At 29th, you’re finishing below teams that were literally in rebuilds and teams that maybe weren’t the most motivated to compete late in the year,” said Olshey. “That was completely unacceptable."
Despite McCollum's negative trade value, it hasn't stopped the rumors from swirling about whether or not the Blazers could trade CJ McCollum for Paul George or Tobias Harris.
Time will tell.