Lillard’s remarks may spark big offseason changes for Blazers

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

As the NBA season winds down, it appears all but certain that the Portland Trail Blazers will miss the playoffs again. This follows a decent start to the season, where the Blazers went 10-5 in the team’s first 15 games before the bottom fell out.

Thus far in 2023, the Blazers have gone just 13-23, despite superstar Damian Lillard having averaged 35.1 points per game in that span, causing their playoff hopes to evaporate. Missing the postseason is one thing, but a potentially frustrated superstar is another, and Lillard has made his desire to win clear in recent comments:

Building a contender around him is seen as the best way to keep him happy, and his comments suggest he has little patience for rebuilding. This is despite Portland likely picking in the top 10 again this year after taking Shadeon Sharpe sixth overall in 2022.

While Lillard’s comments don’t suggest he will ask out this summer, they could hint at big offseason changes for Portland.

Internal pressure could force the Trail Blazers to make trades this summer.

Ahead of the NBA trade deadline, the Trail Blazers were reportedly looking to upgrade at center by moving Jusuf Nurkic and his big contract. Of course, that didn’t happen, but they could look to do so this summer. There was also speculation that they could trade their best young players, Anfernee Simons and Sharpe, for a win-now player such as OG Anunoby or even Pascal Siakam.

While those were only unconfirmed rumors, there may be a grain of truth to them, and they could become a reality if the Blazers become desperate enough. Portland could also package Nurkic with their lottery selection, which is currently projected to be the seventh pick but could be as high as the fifth pick, to try to kill two birds with one stone.

Trading Simons, Sharpe, and/or a potential top-5 pick to try and build a contender is at least a possibility. That being said, they’d be risking their future on the off chance that they can assemble a team that can make the NBA Finals in the next couple of seasons. Of course, the alternative is trading Lillard, and unless he demands a trade, they likely won’t.

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That puts Portland between a rock and a hard place, but they have shown that they are willing to take risks, such as trading CJ McCollum last season. As a result, expect Portland to be very active this summer, but they could ultimately find themselves in a similar position a year from now.