For the Portland Trail Blazers to get back to contending, they’re going to need to make some changes. It’s always painful for teammates, front office members, and fans to say goodbye to players that they’ve grown connected to, but if the goal is to win a title with Damian Lillard, change is on the horizon.
To become a contender, there are two paths to pursue: the team can go all-in on various stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Pascal Siakam, Bradley Beal, or any of the other rumored names that could seek a trade, or it could choose to get a number of role players to support a singular star in Lillard.
Either of these is more palatable than the chants to blow up the team’s core.
With those stars hard to acquire and convince to sign a long-term deal in Portland, the smarter option may be to get a handful of quality role players who can support Lillard in his quest. To get these types of packages, the team will need to use some of its best assets and get off of some troublesome salary.
The package that this article works with includes two of the Blazers’ best assets and one of their worst from a pure value perspective. On one hand, a top-7 lottery pick in this year’s NBA draft is worth a great deal, along with a young, team-controlled lead guard in Anfernee Simons.
On the other hand, while Jusuf Nurkic can still start for an NBA team, he is a sieve on defense and isn’t a great center to build around.
With this package, and some slight variations, here are five trades that the Blazers could pursue to get the role players they need to contend for a title.
If the Blazers are going to retool their roster around Damian Lillard, they need more of a defensive focus. That has to come from everyone except Lillard, as he will carry such a heavy load on offense that the rest of the team must be full of stoppers at each position to compensate.
Giving up a young potential star and a top lottery pick should only be done to get a potential defensive game changer, which is exactly what Nic Claxton has become this season. He’s a massive presence in size and skill, as he can block shots, control the defensive glass, and solidify a spot of weakness for the team.
The rest of the package is full of players who can support Claxton and create a sturdy defensive backbone. Finney-Smith is a legitimate three-and-D forward who can slot in next to Jerami Grant and create a more-than-competent frontcourt next to their new center.
Royce O’Neale is a solid defender who has enough shake and pop on offense to earn a solid role on the floor.
The swing piece is Cam Thomas, as he’s fallen out of the regular Brooklyn rotation, despite his prodigious scoring talents. Nabbing him shouldn’t be too hard, as the team would swap him for a more polished product in Simons.
For a Blazers team that will have a lean bench, however, acquiring Thomas and the other role players will give it an immediate spark off of the pine to stabilize the offense when Lillard sits.