The Portland Trail Blazers have embarked on a rebuild focused around star point guard Damian Lillard. With that in mind, Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report proposes that the Blazers have one key need: a mobile center to pair with Lillard.
You could go a number of different directions for the soft-rebuild Portland Trail Blazers. But as they try to hastily reconstruct a contender around Damian Lillard, the need for a switchy, defensively mobile center stands out.
And no, Justise Winslow is not the galaxy-brain answer.
Size is an issue elsewhere on the roster.
Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Josh Hart (non-guaranteed for 2022-23) give the Blazers a tantalizing three-guard look, but none of them has the size to bounce around positionally. Hart tries his best, but he’s only 6’5” and can’t really bother forwards. Nassir Little looked promising as a 3 prior to a season-ending shoulder injury, but even he’s a little undersized, especially if Portland wants to juice its offense by slotting him at power forward next year.
Yet the Blazers can’t lean on Jusuf Nurkic, according to Hughes.
With the key returners forming what looks like a leaky, easily overpowered perimeter defense, you might think it wise to bring back Jusuf Nurkic to defend the rim. He’s been great at that over the years, reliably reducing opponent attempt rate and accuracy inside. But multiple injuries have sapped Nurk’s lateral mobility, and teams have consistently gotten up more three-point attempts when he’s in the game, a result of his limitations on the perimeter.
With him, switching is out of the question.
Could the Blazers keep the Bosnian Beast and bring someone else — someone faster on his feet — in?
Portland could have the room to bring Nurkic back in unrestricted free agency and find a more athletic 5. If the Blazers are serious about contending, they’ll probably need both.
Hughes concludes with this:
Two quick additional thoughts, the first of which should only be whispered: Portland does not need to give Lillard the two-year, $107 million extension for which he’s eligible this offseason. That way madness lies.
The second: Portland needs to keep Simons in restricted free agency. He might be the key to success in a post-Lillard world.
Well, in that we’re in agreement: Anfernee Simons should be here to stay.