Romanticizing a team’s potential is a seductive trap that many NBA fans and sports personalities happily leap into.
A team surge can at the right time and clinch a high seeded playoff berth. Dynamic players can lead an otherwise flawed team into over-achievement and unfair expectations. When said team fail to meet expectations, the team leaves fans and the media with many questions, very few answers and hypothetical takes that are colder than last night’s pizza.
That’s where we are with the Portland Trailblazers.
The Blazers seemed to have been the real deal-a legit contender and Western Conference threat. A late season surge catapulted Portland to third in the West at season’s end. The torrid play of chronically unsung point guard Damian Lillard earned him a cameo in the league MVP conversation.
Some sports media pundits even predicted that this Blazer team could possibly upset the Warriors in a potential second round match up.
However, a surprising New Orleans Pelicans team snuffed out the Blazers, their aspirations, and potential in a four game demolition. For all of their promise and proclamations, the Blazers are now 0-9 in recent playoff action-including back to back sweeps out of the playoffs .
This is a situation of the Blazers own doing. In 2016, the front office spent name brand money on players such as Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli , and Moe Harkless, only to receive flea market results and productivity in return.
Meanwhile, Lillard seems to want the team to develop organically. Despite he and McCollum playing well together, it’s hard to compete consistently when the team is capped with mediocre talent surrounding their back-court.
A growing number of fans and some of the media have suggested breaking up the back-court- similar to Golden State choosing Curry over Monte Ellis six years ago. Obviously, breaking up the back-court is a pivotal point in this franchise, and it’s a move that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Breaking up Lillard and McCollum is a difficult move because an argument can be made for both players to build a team around.
Blazers Keep Lillard and Trade McCollum
Let’s just say that the Blazers want to build the team around Dame. Honestly, the move is understandable. Lillard is a dynamic scorer who can stretch the floor when he chooses to. He can and does get hot in the clutch. Not to mention, Lillard is arguably the most beloved of the duo.
If the Blazers roll with Dame, it would be best if the team trade McCollum for a point guard who can facilitate as well as score at will plus a solid wing, then move Lillard to shooting guard.
Lillard as a two can play off the ball, which gives the Blazers opportunities to take advantage of his gravity and scoring prowess. At the two, Lillard wouldn’t have to worry much about commanding double teams. Imagine a back-court of Lillard and the Hornets’ Kemba Walker, for example. Walker is a nice offensive weapon to have. His handles and range can stretch the floor for the Blazers. Walker would command double teams while Lillard thrives on the perimeter.
In addition to Walker, the Blazers should go for a solid wing. The wing and Walker can run pick and roll options. They can also run pick and roll options between the wing and Lillard. The change is enough to not only keep defenses honest with more spacing, but this combo will give the Blazers a formidable offensive attack.
Blazers Keep McCollum and Trade Lillard
On the other hand, the Blazers wouldn’t be wrong if they keep McCollum over Lillard. McCollum has proven that he can light up the box score. Not to mention, he is the better defender and play-maker of the two. If the Blazers decide to keep McCollum, they can move him back to the point. Then, the Blazers could trade Lillard for somebody like the Wizards’ Bradley Beal. In addition to Beal, the Blazers can also bring in a wing or a big by clearing up some cap space and signing a solid free agent like Atlanta’s Dewayne Dedmon. Beal can continue to thrive alongside McCollum facilitating and drawing double teams. McCollum would have more freedom in the offense to create his own shot and operate as the ball handler in pick and rolls. improved defense at the point and up front would be a much needed bonus.
If you were Paul Allen or part of the Blazers’ front office, what would you do? Would you keep Dame and Trade CJ? Or Keep CJ and trade Dame? Should the Blazers even consider breaking up the back-court at all? Hit us up on twitter or here in the comments and let us know.