The Trailblazers started out real hot this NBA season. Coming out 10-3, many morons, I am one of these morons, thought Portland was about to take the step that everyone has predicted they would take over the last three seasons. Being led by one of the best guard combos the league has to offer, Damian Lillard and C.J McCollum, Portland hasn’t found the success they should have, most notably being shutdown by New Orleans in the first round last season. Since that 10-3 start, Portland has gone 3-7 over their last 10 games, landing them in seventh. The future of this franchise is really going to be altered over the next few months. With young teams like Denver and the Clippers rising fast through the West, and the old guard like Golden State and Oklahoma City not going anywhere, there isn’t much room in the playoff picture for Portland. This team is almost stuck in that perennial 8 seed spot that ruins franchises for decades. They have to make moves, one of three, to be specific, to avoid being trash for a decade.
Trade Damian Lillard
Obviously this is a very extreme option. Dame is good enough to be an All NBA player every year, but he’s been snubbed by voters his entire career. Lillard is locked into a contract and under team control until 2021. Trading him, along with his Bird Rights, to a team looking for another super star would bring a massive pay day. I’m the guy who called Jalen Rose an idiot for suggesting the Celtics trade Kyrie for a huge return, but this situation is different. The Celtics have a young replacement waiting in the wings, Portland has no one. With not a lot of flexibility in the cap, and with no other premier assets to move, Lillard may be the only option. McCollum could be moved instead, but keeping him on a cheaper deal makes more sense if the rebuild process is to start. Teams with a superstar, surrounded by youth, such as the Lakers and Raptors, are perfect dance partners for Portland. Grab some young prospects and a nice medley of draft picks to move around or start from scratch. Either direction is better than a stagnant mid tier dumpster fire.
Trade Jusuf Nurkic
Nurkic is easily the least glamorous of Portland’s “big three”. Lillard is a super star, McCollum is a fringe All Star, all while Nurkic is a borderline top 10 center. This year though, Nurkic is having career highs across the board and his trade stock has never been higher. The ideal trade partner would be a good team that smells at rebounding like Houston. Obviously Chris Paul nor James Harden are coming back as return, but the Rockets could use a low post option like Nurkic since Melo wasn’t the offensive factor Mike D’Antoni thought he’d be (shocker). His current contract makes Nurkic hard to move, but Houston, who is for certain in a “win now” mentality, would most likely bite the bullet to add Nurkic to the rotation. That doesn’t solve all of Portland’s problems, but freeing that money up heading into a strong free agency class only helps Portland. Plus after losing Nurkic, Portland would free fall down the standings into the lottery of this upcoming draft, a draft this is filled at the top with franchise altering talent. Using the pick or trading it is up to them, but having that option, with more cap space, is better than going forward with Nurk as a third option.
Burn It All Down
Blow it up. Clear house. Sell it all. Whatever the nomenclature you choose to use is irrelevant, just get everyone out and start over. Send Lillard to the Lakers for one of their young guns and picks, sell Nurkic for whatever to whomstever, and send McCollum out East to Milwaukee for picks and Thon Maker. Who cares really, this isn’t a trade to improve your team. This trade is to make your team as young and as awful as possible. With the return of Seattle basketball imminent, Portland’s position as the premier hoops team of the North West is in jeopardy. Time to mix it up and do something different. Trotting out the same two stars, a decent center, and a litany of scrubs is not going to get it done. In all seriousness the third seed out West is like the eighth seed in the East. Great you finished third, congrats, but you are not getting past Golden State. You’re going to finish in this spot every year, never improve, and have nothing to show for a smooth decades worth of competitive basketball. Ask the New York Knicks of the 90’s how that goes. Cool, you built a couple of fan favorites, maybe some Hall of Famers, but you never win anything and it sets your franchise back for years. Trading the three guys would stink for the current iteration of fans for sure, but in five years from now it should pay off. I say “should” because I don’t trust the team that thought Evan Turner was worth 70 million over 4 years to make rational decisions.