The Portland Trail Blazers cannot afford to run it back. Damian Lillard has made it clear that he does not believe that the roster as currently constructed is talented enough to help him compete for a title. He’s also suggested that if the Blazers brass doesn’t take steps to substantially upgrade the team, he’ll be forced to ask for a trade.
Portland doesn’t have the luxury of just gunning for a max contract player in free agency; they don’t have the cap space, or the means to create enough, to do so. Instead, General Manager Neil Olshey is going to have to get creative if he wants to surround Dame with supporting pieces that can get him a ring.
Most people would expect for there to be a blockbuster trade within the team this offseason. With the Blazers financial situation and pieces, that seems like the clear cut move to bring in additional help around Lillard. But that’s not the only option the Blazers have.
The Portland Trail Blazers need to convince veteran players that they can compete for a title together
Outside of trades, the Blazers will likely only have veteran minimum contracts and either their full or taxpayer mid-level exception to dole out in free agency. Usually, that means that fans can only expect marginal role players to sign with the team.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been competitive enough though, that they may be able to convince some of the league’s aging stars to come to Rip City for a chance to win the title. Olshey needs to persuade these players that with their contributions, the Blazers could potentially win it all. Some recent examples of former stars signing for dirt cheap with capped out teams for a shot at the Larry O’Brien include: Blake Griffin signing with the Brooklyn Nets, Marc Gasol with the Los Angeles Lakers, and DeMarcus Cousins with the Golden State Warriors and both LA teams.
This is the easiest way for the Blazers to bring in meaningful contributors on a discounted deal. Olshey has done a great job convincing himself that Portland is a championship-level team—he just has to do that with veteran free agents too.
Here are three potential ring-chasers to monitor in free agency and what they would bring to the table for the Portland Trail Blazers: