So Many Questions Marks Surrounding Portland
For a while, the Portland Trail Blazers seemed to be on the path to making the NBA Play-In Tournament. Damian Lillard was playing fantastically until suddenly everything fell off a cliff. The Trail Blazers went 5-19 after the All-Star break, the league’s second-worst record, and seemingly had their NBA playoffs odds vanish.
There was a solid amount of time when the Trail Blazers were decent NBA picks, having one of the top offenses. But once the team collapsed, that all went away, and the coaching staff resorted to benching players to get better odds for the draft.
That worked as Portland finished with a 33-49 record, the fifth-worst mark in the league. In return, the Trail Blazers have the fifth-best odds (10.5%) to get the first overall pick in advance of the NBA lottery on May 16. Most offseason plans depend on a favorable lottery pick, making it difficult to have concrete NBA predictions for Portland’s future.
Another thing tied into the Trail Blazers’ NBA odds is the trade rumors around Lillard. While he has remained loyal to Portland, Lillard may no longer be on the roster if the front office decides to rebuild.
2022-23 Season Record: 33-49
Status of Coach: Chauncey Billups. Possibly on the hot seat, depending on the offseason.
Positions Of Need For the Trail Blazers
- Another All-Star
- A Balanced Starting Center
- Two-Way Wings (Preferably 3-and-D style players)
Possible Free Agency Plan
This could end up being a wild off-season for the Trail Blazers. Despite Lillard’s massive contract, they have some cap space to sign free agents. That is mainly because of how many players from last season will likely no longer be on the roster.
One player that Portland will be pursuing is Jerami Grant. He played a crucial role on the team last season, offering spot-up shooting, averaging 20.5 points, and serving as the primary perimeter defender. The Trail Blazers could not extend him during the season, so they will likely try to re-sign him once they can.
“I think he’s gonna be on the move. I think he’s gonna end up in the eastern conference.”
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) April 24, 2023
However, a lot of this may not matter. The most significant need for the Trail Blazers is an elite rim defender and floor spacer – essentially what Victor Wembanyama would offer. If they do not win the lottery, there is a good chance that the Trail Blazers could go into a rebuild.
That could result in Lillard being traded, which has been a rumor in NBA news for a long time but seems more realistic than usual. It might not even be Lillard who demands the trade, but Portland’s higher-ups may believe that a complete rebuild is the best possible next step for the franchise.
In the possible scenario of Portland winning the lottery and re-signing Grant, the rest of the offseason would be about adding depth. That could be players like Josh Richardson and Jae Crowder, who offer floor spacing but also a lot of defensive activity. Also matching offers to one or both of Cam Reddish and Matisse Thybulle. Each is a restricted free agent who the Trail Blazers acquired at the trade deadline and played well in their small sample size with the team.
First-Round Lottery Odds
- Odds For First Overall Pick – 10.5%
- Odds For A Top Four Pick – 42.1%
- New York Knicks First-Round Pick
Possible Draft Plan
Everything revolves around what happens on May 16 for the Trail Blazers. Winning the lottery could change the team entirely by selecting Wembanyama, the outright favorite in about all sportsbooks. He is a perfect fit for this roster that needs more talent at the center. Wembanyama can play alongside Jusuf Nurkić due to his spacing, but he offers much more rim protection. The pick-and-roll combination between Wembanyama and Lillard could be devastating, with both able to make shots from anywhere on the court.
After Wembanyama, no other player in this draft could have that massive impact to turn around the Trail Blazers. Scoot Henderson is a guard that would be behind Lillard and Anfernee Simons on the depth chart. Portland drafted a similar player to Brandon Miller in the last draft, selecting Shaedon Sharpe with the seventh overall pick. The Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, played last season in the Overtime Elite league, which was in its first year and has yet to prove to be a valid path to NBA success.
It would be a complicated situation for the Trail Blazers, who want to compete for the playoffs, but outside of Wembanyama, no other player seems to have that upside. This could be where Portland decides to wave the white flag, effectively beginning a total rebuild.