Damian Lillard talks forgotten Blazers title contender: 'We was smokin' everybody'

The franchise legend reminisced about a specific Portland team he remembers having a real shot at winning an NBA championship.
Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge; Portland Trailblazers
Wesley Matthews, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge; Portland Trailblazers / Steve Dykes/GettyImages

Whether you want to call it a mutual parting of the ways or Damian Lillard finally requesting a trade out of Portland, the Trail Blazers dealt the most popular player in franchise history last offseason to give him a chance to win an NBA championship. He now has that opportunity with the Milwaukee Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Dame never got a legitimate shot at it in Portland. Former general manager Neil Olshey struggled to put a good enough roster around him, and current GM Joe Cronin either never found the right all-in deal or blatantly lied and never tried at all, depending on who you ask. Lillard certainly deserves some blame as well.

But the franchise's all-time leading scorer does believe the Trail Blazers had some title-contending teams, one in particular; it just happened to crumble at the end of the season because of injuries to key players.

Looking back on that year's roster, Lillard might be right. Had a few things broken Portland's way, his legacy in Rip City could look a little different.

Damian Lillard believes the 2014-15 Trail Blazers were his best chance to win an NBA championship in Portland

In an episode of Trae Young's "From the Point Podcast" (h/t Bleacher Report), Dame was asked if there's any single Blazers team he looks back on and plays the what-if game with.

"The team that we had with LaMarcus (Aldridge) my second year, we won 54 games, that was like the first time winnin’ a playoff series in like 15 years. And then I remember after that year I was like, ‘Alright, we got something.’ It was me, Wes (Matthews) was our shooting guard, 6-5, three-and-D, strong, competitive. We had Nic Batum at the three, he was a playmaker, shooter, defender, slasher. LA at the four, Robin Lopez at the five, he was the best offensive rebounder in the league at the time; right hand, left hand, jump hook, he was a good free-throw shooter. We had Chris Kaman comin’ off the bench, we had Mo Williams comin’ off the bench, we had Dorrell Wright, CJ (McCollum) was on our bench, Allen Crabbe, Will Barton. We had a squad. We came out to start the year, we was No. 1 in the West and this was like when OKC had KD, Russ, all those dudes. The Spurs was comin’ off the championship. Indiana had Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert, it was a bunch of good teams. I remember that year we came out ... and we was smokin’ everybody. We was beatin’ everybody, No. 1 in the West. Then Wes tore his Achilles, LA tore his thumb and I just remember our season just fell apart toward the end. So that year I thought we was about to win it."

Damian Lillard on the 2014-15 Blazers

Aldridge averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds that season on his way to being named Second-Team All-NBA and finishing seventh in the MVP voting. He tore a thumb ligament that should have ended his season in January but decided to put off surgery and play through it.

Matthews averaged 15.9 points and 1.3 steals while shooting 39 percent from three on 7.4 attempts a game. He ruptured his Achilles in early March, only about a month before the playoffs started.

The Blazers didn't make it out of the first round, losing in five games to the Memphis Grizzlies. Courtney Lee averaged 17.2 points that series and Mike Conley averaged 16.0. Matthews would have spent time guarding both. His replacement was Arron Afflalo, who Portland acquired at that year's trade deadline. Afflalo scored 1.7 ppg in 20 minutes.

The Blazers did catch a glimpse of McCollum's potential as the then-23-year-old averaged 17.0 points on 48/48/77 shooting splits, but he was thrust into playing more than 33 minutes per game that series after averaging 15.7 during the regular season, his second year in the league.

With a fully healthy Aldridge and a healthy Matthews, Portland would've had a good shot against the Grizzlies. Waiting for them in the second round would have been the eventual champion Golden State Warriors, which won the first of three titles in four seasons.


Aldridge and Matthews both left in free agency that summer, LaMarcus to the San Antonio Spurs and Wes to the Dallas Mavericks. That ushered in the Mo Harkless/Al-Farouq Aminu era, and although Lillard made the Western Conference Finals three years later, he never played with that talented of a roster again.