The Portland Trail Blazers will look to take a step forward in the Summer of 2022. Pundits, rumor mongers, players, and the franchise’s front office all agree on that point. With superstar guard Damian Lillard drifting into his 30’s and a 27-win season in the rear-view mirror, standing pat is not in the offing this off-season.
As always, the devil is in the details. The Blazers will have to give up value to get value. They own the 7th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, but that only spends once...and only so far. Portland will likely have to part with established players and/or young talent in order to revamp the roster to the level necessary.
The contract status of several incumbents complicates the issue. Nobody is going to blink twice over how the Blazers handle Eric Bledsoe’s non-guaranteed deal or Joe Ingles in his unrestricted free agency. It’s assumed the team will do whatever is to their best advantage. The difference between signing, trading, and releasing in both cases is marginal.
The equation gets more complex when you consider unrestricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic, restricted free agent Anfernee Simons, and non-guaranteed starter Josh Hart. Those three played major roles last year. Any or all could be projected as starters. Portland doesn’t have a ton of depth. What happens to this trio matters. Fielding Lillard and—pulling a name out of the rumor hat—Bradley Beal as a starting frontcourt wouldn’t yield the desired results if the Blazers can’t put a center on the floor and have no reserves for the backcourt.
This brings us to the question for the day. Let’s not talk in abstract trade terms or go gaga over rumors right now. Let’s assume we want the Blazers to get better, no matter what that “getting better” looks like. How many players on the roster do you regard as a “must keep” in order to achieve that goal?
Note that it’s possible to answer “zero”, but for these purposes, that would mean that there’s no way for Portland to grow forward right now. Only a complete reset and rebuild will do. In this conversation, “Zero” does not mean “they should make trades and no players are untouchable”. For this discussion, we’re assuming that argument to mean, “It’s ok to trade every player on the roster for just one target and that’ll make the Blazers better.” Unless that target is Giannis Antetokounmpo, that’s just not so. “They should make trades,” means you think they can build from here. So which players do you think they need to keep in order to preserve the foundation to make that build work?
Go ahead and tell us how many players you see as “keepers” in the forward step, who they are, and why you deem them so. We’ll be reading in the comments below!