After the Blazers were swept out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans, many writers are questioning the future of the team; in particular, the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum back court.
Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post compared the Blazers to the Toronto Raptors of the last several years, but said that the situation feels less hopeful in Portland:
Like that Toronto team, Portland has had repeated playoff struggles. This year’s sweep has brought the total to 10 straight losses in playoff games for Portland, dating back to the final two games of the Blazers’ second-round series with the Golden State Warriors in 2016 (the Warriors also swept them in four games last year). And, like that Toronto team, Portland has a roster built around two ball-dominant guards — Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum — with role players dropped in around them.
The difference, though, is that patience doesn’t feel like it’s an option here. Instead, it’s a matter of what major change happens — or if several of them do.
Meanwhile, Rob Mahoney wrote for SI: The Crossover that it’s not so much Lillard and McCollum that are the problem, it’s the lack of assets to get better anywhere else:
This is where the Lillard-McCollum chatter comes to bear. Portland could make smart, peripheral moves to get better to a certain extent—just as they did this past season. Some internal development can be expected. This is not a team that needs to be broken up, but it also hasn’t made some incontrovertible case to be kept together forever. Maybe the conversation would go differently if Turner could be moved or Meyers Leonard had some interest around the league. That they can’t brings the conversation back to Lillard and McCollum. The idea that one might need to be traded persists in large part because Portland lacks other transformative options, should it choose to go that route. There are only so many ways forward for this group as presently constructed.
Mahoney also took a sobering look at Portland’s regular season success:
Olshey warned against overreacting to four games, but the Blazers should also be wary of putting too much stock in three—the difference in record between Portland’s No. 3 seed and the Nuggets at No. 9. That’s a bad road trip. It’s a tweaked ankle. The Blazers should be proud of their regular season finish and the clawing it took to get there. No matter the circumstances, their fight was impressive. Yet the No. 3 seed the season prior (Houston) was a 55-win team that nearly tripled the Blazers in net rating, marking a different tier from where Portland now sits.
Both pieces take a well-reasoned look at the Blazers’ situation and are worth a read. Where should Portland go from here? Let us know in the comments!