Planning the Portland Trail Blazers Offseason
In the 2019 NBA playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers made themselves known. After clinching the third-seed with 53 wins, Portland made their first Western Conference Finals appearance in nearly 20 years. Ultimately, they fell short of advancing to the final round, but the Blazers were determined to redeem themselves in 2020. Unfortunately, redemption wasn’t the story to be told this season. A 29-37 record puts them three and a half games out of a playoff spot and raises a lot of questions for the team’s future. That future is unknown for now, and will largely depend on the Portland Trail Blazers’ upcoming offseason.
What Should The Portland Trail Blazers Off-Season Look Like?
Upgrade at Forward
Those words should be engraved on the Trail Blazers’ tombstone. For the fifth straight year, Portland ranked in the bottom six teams in terms of scoring from the forward positions. This year, both of Portland’s starting wings had their seasons end due to injuries before Christmas. These injuries exposed depth as a major weakness for this team. Even looking ahead, Zach Collins currently represents the only power forward signed past 2020. Rodney Hood will also return next season, but his torn Achilles will likely keep him inactive in the opening weeks, making Trevor Ariza and Nassir Little the only options at small forward.
Luckily, the upcoming class of free agents is full of possible options: Danilo Gallinari, Marcus Morris, and Serge Ibaka are all up for grabs this summer. Any one of them would be huge for the Blazers, but they could be too expensive to land. Portland gave pricey extensions to both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this past offseason, limiting the team’s ability to spend money on free agents. Cheaper wings on the market include Davis Bertans and Christian Wood, both of whom offer high potential at younger ages. Bertans has scored 15.4 points per game on 42.4% shooting from three. Meanwhile, Wood has averaged 22.8 points and 9.9 rebounds per game since Detroit promoted him to a starting role.
Explore Trading CJ McCollum
The other way Portland can acquire wings would be via trade, even if it involved CJ McCollum. McCollum and Lillard have been one of the NBA’s best backcourt duos for five years. Although the Blazers did extend the shooting guard through 2023, McCollum’s name has already floated around in trade rumors this season, most notably drawing interest from the Philadelphia 76ers.
McCollum has averaged 21.7 points and 3.7 assists per game over the past five seasons. These numbers might seem underwhelming for a guy getting $33.3 million a year, but remember that McCollum is the second option on the floor. Put in a setting where he’s the primary scoring option, McCollum’s numbers will drastically improve. He proved this in a recent stretch of seven games in which Lillard was inactive. In those games, McCollum recorded 31.7 points and 7.9 assists per game on 48.5% shooting, solidifying his serious potential as the leader of an offence.
Part Ways With Melo
The Trail Blazers sent the league into a frenzy in mid-November when they announced the signing of veteran Carmelo Anthony. The Blazers were desperate to spark life back into their season after starting the year 5-9 and Melo sought a fresh start. Fans were skeptical of the non-guaranteed contract, given Anthony’s shaky track record in recent seasons. The 35-year-old wound up pulling his weight on the court, averaging 15.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 84.3% on free throws (the second-highest mark of his career).
Anthony’s expressed interest in resigning with Portland, but he’s not what the team needs. Melo showed everyone he’s still a solid scorer, but remains a massive liability on the defensive end. The Blazers allow 115.2 points per game to opponents this year, which ranks 26th in the league. Last year, Portland finished 14th in opponents points per game. The year before that, they sat at fourth. The Blazers need to improve their defence drastically, and that starts with letting go of Carmelo Anthony.