The Portland Trail Blazers just got completely hammered by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs despite owning home court advantage and finishing off the season as the 3rd seed in the fierce Western Conference.
Dame Lillard and company were swept and up to this day, they still don’t know what hit them, and even though this team seemed right on track to make a huge playoff push, they’ve been heavily exposed and they’re set to face a key offseason this summer.
Although we don’t see the Blazers firing Terry Stotts amid this major meltdown, this team needs to go through some changes in order to build from this humiliation and get back even stronger for yet another playoff push next season. Today, we’re going to let you know the top 5 moves they need to do in order to strengthen their squad.
5. Trade Evan Turner, Moe Harkless And Meyers Leonard
The Portland Trail Blazers definitely need to clear a lot of cap space for this upcoming offseason, and even though they’re not likely to actually try and pursue LeBron James as some rumors stated earlier in the season, they need to move some assets if they want to put themselves on the map as an actual destination for top-tier players.
So, the most tradeable candidates would have to be Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Evan Turner, as they owe them a combined 39 million dollars next season. With Leonard being a major bust, Harkless just a defensive-minded wing and Turner as inconsistent as it gets, they’re going to have to throw out a pick or two to sweeten the deal.
4. Add Veteran Players
The Trail Blazers have thrived mostly because of their youth, with their standout backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum being the team’s cornerstone for the future with the additions of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins as a couple of young big men that have still a lot of room for improvement.
Nonetheless, this postseason proved they lacked that kind of veteran leadership all teams need in crunch time, especially during the playoffs. That’s why they need to make a run at some cheap veteran players of the likes of Zach Randolph, or even try to overpay a bit in order to land Trevor Ariza as a 3 and D specialist.
3. Offer Max Contracts To Aaron Gordon Or Julius Randle
Obviously, the Portland Trail Blazers can’t sign both of them, but they need to make a push for at least one of the two young studs, with Randle being the most likely candidate to leave this team as the Los Angeles Lakers are expected to let him walk away in order to make a push for 2 All-Stars during the summer.
Both Gordon and Randle have a lot of upsides and are great hustlers down low, above average playmakers and fierce scorers and rebounders as well, and both of them could be a consistent third scoring option behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, as well as putting up a lot of effort in both ends of the glass, something they’ve lacked for years now.
Of course, the Blazers need to trade at least 2 or 3 players (Turner, Harkless and Leonard).
2. Offer Jusuf Nurkic Qualifying Offer
The Blazers need to be extremely cautious with their young center, trying to lure him and convince him to take a long-term deal to be their defensive anchor down low and handle the big man duties at center, as Nurkic provided them with huge presence below the rim they had lacked for at least 3 seasons.
Nonetheless, if Nurkic gets a huge offer from any other team, they would be smart to let him walk away and make a run for a defensive minded center during the offseason, or just hand the keys of the car to Zach Collins to continue his development or to draft young big men for to replace Jusuf Nurkic.
The priority for the Trail Blazers should be to sign young stars like Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon. Nurkic is a solid big man, but the Blazers should first check Randle or Gordon status.
1. Don't Trade Lillard Or McCollum
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have proved over and over that they can thrive playing next to each other, being one of the most explosive and dynamic backcourt duos in the NBA, so they need at least another playoff run to prove they got what it takes to lead RIP City to the ultimate stage of basketball: the NBA Finals.
It’s still too early to hit the panic bottom and part ways with any of their franchise players, regardless of how much value they can get in return. What they should actually do, is find a way to get other teammates involved and make the offense flow through every player, as iso-ball not going to get you anywhere in the postseason.