3 reasons why Ben Simmons with Damian Lillard is a better fit than CJ McCollum
The tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum has been the franchise cornerstone of the Portland Trail Blazers for more than half a decade
The Blazers own the league’s longest active playoff streak but have only once reached the Western Conference Finals. Though obviously talented, they’ve still always had something missing keeping them from legitimately competing for a championship.
Portland has made numerous changes of late, like swapping Gary Trent Jr. for Norman Powell, acquiring Robert Covington from the Houston Rockets and hiring Chauncey Billups as its new head coach. Even with that new look, though, the results seem to be the same or even worse for the franchise. Thus, it might be time for the Blazers to pick up the phone and call Daryl Morey, offering McCollum to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Ben Simmons.
Here are three reasons why pairing Simmons with Lillard could take Portland to heights the latter never has with McCollum as his co-star.
Simmons is one of the best defenders in the NBA
Over the tenure of former head coach Terry Stotts, the Blazers regularly ranked toward the bottom of the league in defense. The undersized guard duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have never been known for their defensive abilities, limited by physical deficiencies as primary and help defenders.
By swapping McCollum with Simmons, Portland’s defense would immediately get better due to the latter’s IQ and versatility on that end of the floor. Simmons was the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year last season, also containing the likes of Bradley Beal and Trae Young in the playoffs. If they are able to execute this deal, a Blazers starting unit of Lillard, Powell, Covington, Simmons and Jusuf Nurkic would be quite formidable defensively.
If Portland were to make a deep playoff run, Simmons is the piece who would defend LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic in the playoffs. As currently constructed, Billups’ team lacks a lockdown defender capable of making life tough on opposing superstars.
Unstoppable Lillard-Simmons pick and roll
Even though Simmons has been playing the point guard position with the Sixers, he could drift to power forward in Portland. Running pick-and-roll in downsized lineups with Simmons at center would be an unstoppable setup for Billups, surrounding Lillard with three snipers on the wings and corners. Simmons’ ability to facilitate, finish and act quickly on short rolls would open up a vast amount of options for the Blazers offensively.
If defenses decide to trap Lillard, Simmons could play a similar role to Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors and be a point forward for their team. At 6’10” with his sharp vision and floor general skills, Simmons would provide a massive boost to a team in need of a forward that has size and playmaking. Even if he started at the four, Simmons could still play the one with Lillard on the bench, and he has proven that he could run an offense for certain junctures of crucial games.
Versatility on both ends
As previously mentioned, Simmons brings a very different skill set to the table compared to McCollum. With Simmons’ versatility, the supporting pieces of the Blazers could also be altered in order to complement their new star duo. Shooting would be even further prioritized because Damian Lillard and Simmons are both willing passers.
Quality veterans like Powell and Covington are perfect for the organization, but Portland must try searching for more role players who are well-rounded on both ends of the floor. Lillard and McCollum give the front office less flexibility stylistic flexibility than Lillard and Simmons would. A change of scenery for Simmons may also revitalize his career as he tries to find a new home away from Philadelphia.