With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers have been squarely in the playoff picture almost every season since their partnership began — that is, until this most recent campaign.
Despite having a loaded roster, the Blazers have been unable to gain any type of footing in the West. Before the hiatus, they were just 29-37 with a 9th place seeding in the West. They were on the outside looking in.
And with the clock ticking on the Dame timer, they don’t have the luxury of wasting whole seasons — which is why you can expect the Blazers to be very active in trying to find ways to fix it this summer.
Among other names, it’s McCollum who has surfaced as a possible trade candidate heading into the 2020 offseason. He averaged 22 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game this season.
At 29-37, the Blazers may miss the playoffs for the first time in seven years, something that may finally force them to break up the Damian Lillard-McCollum duo.
Getting Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back from injury will help, but this team still needs some serious help on the wing. Trevor Ariza is going to be 35 this summer and only has a partial guarantee on his 2020-21 contract. Carmelo Anthony is going to turn 36 next month and will be an unrestricted free agent. Obviously, an upgrade at the forward positions is a must.
Some possible partners could include the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls, and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Portland should remain in rumors for Kevin Love given his floor-stretching ability and ties to the area, but acquiring more defensive-minded wings who can guard multiple positions and knock down open shots should be the priority.
If the Chicago Bulls are looking to shed salary, Otto Porter Jr. would be a good fit, as would Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings if Portland could execute a sign-and-trade for the restricted free agent.
Obviously, the Blazers will have a number of options to explore when the moment arrives. But McCollum isn’t the only name on the chopping block. Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, and Nassir Little should generate significant trade interest as well.
No matter which way they go, there’s one goal in mind: build the best possible team around Damian Lillard. Trading CJ may be the only way for them to meet that goal.