Just a few nights ago, the Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Denver Nuggets 126-115, eliminating them from the playoffs. This marks the Blazers second straight first-round exit, as well as their 5th under the coaching of Terry Stotts. And just last night, Stotts and the team agreed to part ways, giving the chance for the Blazers to reevaluate their team and move forward.
It is clear that the team’s front office was disappointed in the lack of improvement this team was able to make. Everyone knows about superstar Damian Lillard, but it seems as though the supporting cast failed him in clutch moments. One of these being, game 5 in which the Blazers lost a double-overtime nail-biter. In both overtimes, Damian Lillard scored 17 of the 19 Blazers points. Lillard missed a total of two shots, two three-pointers, while the rest of the Blazers missed 13. The Blazers supposed second star CJ McCollum shot 0-5, missing three three-pointers. The only made basket was a layup from Enes Kanter.
Lillard used his seemingly heavenly clutch abilities to send the game into overtime, but when Dame is out of it for just a bit, it seems as though the rest of the team cannot step up. CJ McCollum had a great game otherwise, but these 10 final minutes ruined the game, and eventually the season, for Blazers fans.
And with very few movable future assets, the team chose to dive right into the waters of revaluation by firing the coach. While this was seemingly a bold move, the Blazers have disappointed in the playoffs time and time again. The only way to escape the mess was to find the problem.
Now with the chance to reevaluate the team’s position amongst Western Conference contenders, the Blazers will have to find the best way possible to attain a championship-caliber roster, if they believe they still can.
The Blazer’s course of action relies on the happiness of Damian Lillard, but it is not expected that he will request a trade any time soon. The Blazers have many questions to answer this offseason, but there is no better time to start thinking than the present.
Should the Trail Blazers bring back Norman Powell?
Powell has a player option this offseason, and it seems likely that he will opt-out of his current contract and become a free agent, as he can likely sign a larger contract with any team. If he opts into the player option, the Blazers will have little to worry about. However, if he opts out, there is a lot to worry about. The Blazers would love to have him back, but at a certain point, the team would likely back off on signing him, and look to do a sign and trade.
Powell can help the Blazers offensively, but his impact is limited, as he does not do very much other than score. While the Blazers may look elsewhere, there are very few players available who would make sense for the Blazers to acquire with the hopes of retaining most of their current roster.
After combing through the league players who would be perfect fits on the Blazers, and would be realistic options, I came up with the following list.
Possible Normal Powell Replacements
The list is short for a few reasons, but mostly because there are very few players who could fit well with the Portland team. Collins, Grant, Randle, and Sabonis are four players who are in rather comfortable situations on their current teams. However, we can easily cut this list in half by removing both Randle and Collins. Both of these players are in extremely favorable situations, and if they do not want to leave there is a slim chance that the team would willing to give up these players for a likely lesser return.
When it comes to Grant and Sabonis, the Blazers would have to give up a large sum of draft capital and young prospects, but for these two players, it would be worth it. Sabonis and Grant could become unhappy with their deteriorating situations and could find Portland to be an enticing option. The chance to play with a starting lineup of themselves, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Robert Convington, and Jusef Nurkic. The ceiling of this lineup would be through the roof, and if either the Pistons or the Pacers want to make a deal, the deal will be made. The Blazers have all of their first-round picks, and I doubt they would not mind giving up a few to acquire a player of this caliber.
The next question that must be asked, is about CJ McCollum.
Is CJ McCollum the right second option for Damian Lillard?
McCollum and Lillard have played together for a long time, but with the lack of success for the duo in their careers, a change would not be a horrible idea. However, chemistry is always important to winning teams. CJ and Dame have notably been one of the closest friends of many in the league, and separating the pair would not be good for chemistry. Therefore, I think the Blazers are the best building around the duo, then breaking them apart.
Last but not least, the big question is who will replace Stotts.
Who will be the next Trail Blazers head coach?
While there have been a handful of candidates mention, including many unrealistic ones, but there is one clear choice. Damian Lillard has gone on the record saying he wants Lakers assistant, Jason Kidd, to be the next Blazers head coach. And considering the current state of the Blazers, Dame’s wish should be regarded as a command. No matter what the front office likes, their goal should be to keep Dame happy with this coach singing, and if Kidd is the best option for Lillard, then so be it. However, since this report has come out, Kidd has withdrawn his name from consideration.
This leads me to believe that the next best option for the Blazers is Chauncey Billups. Billups is a former player and has coaching experience as the LA Clippers assistant coach. He has all the tools to help out the Blazers make a title run, and he will do just that as their head coach.
However because of the large amounts of candidates, we will not know for a while who the next coach will be.
As the offseason continues for the Blazers, they will have to make a lot of moves to improve the roster and prepare to contend. However, these moves may take form with coaching hires, trades, free-agent signings, or maybe something unexpected.