The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves in a very interesting spot just days away from the draft. They currently hold the third overall pick in the draft and could end up using the pick to select a generational talent. However, with Damian Lillard still on the roster, they could also trade the pick to finally put a true star around Lillard. There is a strong case to be made for either option, however, there is a clear best course of action for the Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard has spent the entirety of his 11 year NBA career with the Trail Blazers after they selected him with the 6th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Since then, he has become one of the top point guards in the league. Lillard has made seven All-Star appearances, seven appearances on the All-NBA team, and was a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
Last season, he proved that he is still one of the league’s top players averaging 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game. However, he would have his season cut short after being deactivated once the Trail Blazers were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. In the eleven years that the Trail Blazers have had Lillard on their roster, they have greatly struggled to build a team around him. Despite this, he has remained loyal to the team and stuck with them at the cost of playing meaningful basketball in the postseason.
Now could be the perfect time to finally free Lillard from Portland and trade him to a team that could contend for a ring. This would allow Portland to begin a full-scale rebuild around Anfernee Simons and whoever they select with the third overall pick. A fresh start could be exactly what the Trail Blazers need to finally put together a core that can contend for a title.
Although Portland has failed to put a competent roster around Lillard since trading C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans, there is a chance that this is the best opportunity they have ever had to trade for a second star. The third overall pick holds a lot of value in this year’s draft, and it has been speculated that Portland could trade the pick for either Brandon Ingram or Zion Williamson.
While Ingram is a very talented player, he likely is not enough to move the needle enough for Portland to be true contenders. However, Williamson could be the exact player that Portland needs to truly contend with Lillard. When Williamson is healthy, he is one of the most talented players in the league. Last season, before he was sidelined with an injury, Williamson had led the Pelicans to the top seed in the Western Conference.
He and Lillard would have the potential to be one of the most lethal one-two punches in the entire league. Along with this, if Portland decides to go all in on contending now, they have other young pieces and picks that they could move for a third star.
While it would be great to see Lillard have some real postseason success in the postseason, it is likely in the best interest of the Trail Blazers to finally trade him. While he has served the franchise well and has never given less than 100%, it is clear that the front office does not have what it takes to build a great team around him.
Being able to blow up the roster and build around their young core could set them up to be a very promising team. Lillard alone will net them multiple first-round picks, and there are other veterans that they could also trade for draft capital. While this move likely would not be very popular with fans of the team, it is the best move for their long-term success.
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