There are a ton of variables in play for the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason. They must decide what to do with their first-round pick and the Knicks’ first round-pick. The NBA Draft Lottery is on Tuesday, May 16, which should provide more clarity to their options.
In addition to their draft picks, the Blazers have free agency decisions to make – most notably Jerami Grant (unrestricted), Cam Reddish (restricted), and Matisse Thybulle (restricted).
Before the Blazers make these decisions, they will have to take a firm stance, one way or another, about the direction they want to take this offseason. This high-level decision will impact every specific move they make.
But there’s a higher-level question: Should the Blazers go all-in this offseason?
It’s a controversial question, with Portland fans and analysts on both sides of the spectrum.
The Blazers have been toeing the line of two differing timelines for too long, which has resulted in mediocrity. As a result, the pressure is on the Trail Blazers’ front office to make a choice.
Should Portland go all-in around Damian Lillard to try and build a contender, or should the team decide to tear it down and build around their younger assets? This article highlights three key reasons behind both options.
Reason No. 1 for Trail Blazers to go all-in: Damian Lillard
The main reason to go all-in is superstar point guard Lillard. He’s coming off the best season of his career at age 32 and has a legitimate case to make an All-NBA team.
On the season, Lillard averaged 32.2 points (career high), 7.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 4.2 threes (career high) on 46/37/91 shooting splits.
He finished third in the league in scoring and had the second-best real-plus-minus rating among point guards at 7.08. With Lillard playing the best basketball of his career, a win-now move makes sense.
Dame has made it known he would love for Portland to make a move to acquire a co-star. Apparently, All-Star-level players out there would be willing to come, too.
"“I know there are guys that want to do it. I will just say that. I know there are guys who really move the needle and want to do it. But knowing that and actually making something happen to make that a reality is a completely separate thing.” – Damian Lillard on the possibility of trading for a co-star"
Lillard has spent all 11 of his NBA seasons in a Portland Trail Blazers jersey. He’s received a reputation for being one of the most loyal superstars in the league. In an era when superstars often switch teams to land more in ideal situations, Lillard has stayed put through the good times and bad.
If he wants the Blazers to make an all-in move, go for it. He’s earned that opportunity to try and contend.
Reason No. 1 to tear it down: Would Blazers be legitimate contenders?
Would going all-in and sacrificing the future even push the needle enough for Portland to be considered genuine contenders? Lillard is coming off the best season of his career, but the supporting cast around him needs to be improved.
The lack of that is evident in the Blazers’ 33-49 record. Although, to be fair, their record is slightly skewed as they turned into the “Portland Tank Blazers” toward the end of the season.
Let’s say the Blazers can get a co-star like Zach LaVine, Pascal Siakam, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bam Adebayo, Mikal Bridges, etc., and retain Jerami Grant. A big three of Lillard, LaVine (or whichever star), and Grant are solid and should be enough to make the playoffs, but it’s still not entirely on the same level as the big threes of the elite teams in the league.
It’s unusual for a 33-49 team with the fifth-best draft odds to even be able to have a debate about trading a high lottery pick to contend now. It’s not as if Portland has some star recovering from injury; it’s mainly returning the same roster.
The Blazers also are limited in cap space, and even if they let Grant walk, wouldn’t have enough room to sign a big-name free agent.