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Trail Blazers Need To Change Something

Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated argues it’s time for a “shakeup.”

Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

It’s been hard to tune into Portland Trail Blazers’ games of late. Between the offcourt drama and the oncourt struggles, the Blazers are a mess, and Chris Herring of Sports Illustrated says it plainly: the team is in need of a change.

There’s a reason Lillard finds himself at the center of more ESPN Trade Machine deals than anyone else at the moment: The 31-year-old’s team, currently 11–15, seemingly hit a wall years ago, yet has made no real push or roster alteration to break through or around it.

So, how to fix it? The backcourt needs to be able to play defense, for one.

Lillard and McCollum bring plenty of scoring firepower. But the starting backcourt has always lacked the size or defensive chops to get consistent stops. Opposing teams see no resistance when it comes to getting into the paint, shooting 50% on runners—the highest mark in the NBA, per Synergy—against Portland. Opposing teams hit almost 39% of their triples against the Blazers, the highest mark in the league. Opposing teams have the highest effective field goal rate in the league against the club. All of which perhaps makes the next stat unsurprising: Statistically, the Blazers own the worst defense in the entire NBA, something that’s been true—or if not, very close to it—for the better part of the last three seasons now.

Or they could make a deal.

The most obvious fix would be to deal for Ben Simmons, who would theoretically give the Blazers the star defender they’ve long lacked while also giving them a valuable offensive weapon that approximates what Draymond Green does in the short roll with Golden State. Much like Stephen Curry, Lillard’s 35-foot range forces opposing defenses to send occasional half-court traps, forcing him to surrender the ball to someone who’d be playing downhill against a 4-on-3 scenario. Between the elite passing, and the athleticism that allows him to get a head of steam toward the rim, we know those are things the 6’ 10” Simmons can do.

Ultimately, it could come down to letting Lillard walk away, no matter how painful that would be for Rip City — and Dame.

And beyond that, how desperately does the organization need to seek Lillard’s sign-off? Certainly, the team positions itself better if it’s in step with what Lillard thinks and feels. But if the team ends up standing pat throughout the rest of this season and has no clear path upward this coming summer, the Blazers would be doing themselves a disservice to not at least explore what the market for a player like Lillard would yield.

You can read the entire piece here.