The Portland Trail Blazers had a very disappointing 2021-22 season. After eight straight playoff appearances, the Blazers went 27-55 and ended up 13th in the Western Conference. After Damian Lillard went down with a long-term injury, Portland pivoted toward a major retooling by trading away CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington to tank the rest of the season.

Now, the Blazers are looking to surround Lillard with more talent. They agreed to trade for Jerami Grant before the draft and have made some notable moves in free agency, including stealing Gary Payton II away from the Golden State Warriors and agreeing to new deals with Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic.

The work is not done, though, with Portland looking to do more to help Dame. To help them get there, let’s look at the two moves the Blazers still must make after the first weekend of the 2022 NBA free agency period.

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Moves Blazers Must Make After Start Of 2022 NBA Free Agency

Go all in on a Damian Lillard co-star

It ultimately did not work with CJ McCollum, but the Blazers’ path to a championship still works only if Damian Lillard is paired up with a superstar. Portland can make attractive trade offers thanks to owning most of its first-round picks, 2022 No. 7 pick Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons, among other assets. Simons is set to return on a lucrative new deal, so once that deal is signed, it would be a few months before he can be traded.

That aside, it is also about selecting who to target. The Blazers might call up the Utah Jazz and try to get Donovan Mitchell, but given how the experiment between Lillard and McCollum went, Portland would probably stray away from another undersized guard. This also means no Kyrie Irving, for a variety of other reasons as well.

In a surprise to absolutely no one, the Blazers should go hard for Kevin Durant. Lillard recently put up an Instagram story of Durant in a Blazers jersey, they clearly have a good relationship, and it is Kevin Durant. Trading for him, even if it costs the Blazers Simons (again, there would be some complications here), Sharpe, and multiple picks in the draft is a no-brainer and it gives them the best chance to contend for a title in the next couple of years. It will be hard to go for Durant since half of the league is gunning for KD, but the Blazers must do it, for the sake of Lillard, their fans, and their best chances of getting a championship to Portland.

Get stronger inside 

The Blazers have done a nice job retooling so far, even without a legitimate co-star for Damian Lillard. The team has a clear superstar in Dame, and then a good supporting cast around him with Jerami Grant, Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic, Josh Hart, Nassir Little, and Gary Payton II.

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However, there is a glaring issue with their team, and it is the lack of presence inside.

Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant are the only two proven bigs, and Grant is not really a typical big. He is 6-foot-8 and weighs just around how much Josh Hart weighs, so the big-man rotation will be an issue for Portland. Thankfully for them, there are a few options on the market for bigs that could suit their needs for backup big men.

The most obvious one still left up is Montrezl Harrell, since getting Deandre Ayton seems to be out of the question for right now. Harrell would be a good offensive pickup as an energy guy who could be a great bench scorer for a team that needs one. The issue with Harrell is the fact that despite his good numbers, he has been let go of teams fairly easily and has played for three teams in the last two years.

The best defensive option would be Dwight Howard. The Blazers might look away from Howard, who also has been a problematic character and a player with a poor reputation. However, given the fact that almost all of the top-level players are off the board in free agency, Howard being left available might be a blessing in disguise for the Blazers. They would get him for the veteran’s minimum, and he would be comfortable with a bench role. It is not the ideal solution, but at this point in free agency, Howard and the Blazers could be a good pairing as this franchise continues shaking things up.