The Portland Trail Blazers are at a crossroads. After finishing third in the Western Conference last season, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum looked poised to bring the Blazers out of the first round. But things didn’t go as planned. The New Orleans Pelicans swept Portland and there was no answer for Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday.
The team is built around the backcourt of Lillard and McCollum and for good reason. They are two of the brightest young guards in the game. That’s not where the problem with this team lies.
They’ve made the playoffs the last five seasons, but have failed to advance past the second round. The defeat last season was brutal and to make matters worse, they were swept by the Golden State Warriors the year prior.
So that begs the question, is this Blazers team built to win? The obvious answer is no because of the Warriors, but even forgetting about the dynasty in South Bay, is this team built to contend with the top teams in the West?
Last season, they looked the part for much of the campaign. They distanced themselves from a crowded field, but they clearly weren’t built to win in the playoffs. The organization has to do something to try and position this team for a deep run in the playoffs. A change at head coach was a possibility following another first-round sweep. But the Blazers decided to stick with Terry Stotts. Lillard and McCollum seem to be safe, but what else can the Blazers do?
The Blazers could entertain the idea of trading for a disgruntled star near the trade deadline. Jimmy Butler doesn’t look like he will be in Minnesota past this season. If the Timberwolves are scuffling and they want to recoup assets rather than lose Butler to free agency, perhaps Portland could strike a deal and give it their best shot this year.
To be honest, it probably wouldn’t be enough to overcome Golden State, but it would be a way to shake up the roster without moving Lillard and McCollum. This scenario is unlikely, but with the NBA, expect the unexpected.