The explosive backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum helped the Portland Trail Blazers finish as the third best team in the Western Conference last season. Unfortunately, both superstars have failed to make a huge impact in the NBA playoffs, after the Trail Blazers suffered a first-round elimination at the hands of the DeMarcus Cousins-less New Orleans Pelicans.
When the 2018 NBA offseason started, rumors and speculations circulated that the Trail Blazers will make a huge roster shakeup and make Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum available on the trading block. However, in an interview last month, according to NBC Sports, Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey denied the trade rumors surrounding the team and said that they plan to keep their core together.
Despite being swept in the first round of Western Conference Playoffs for two consecutive years, Olshey is still very confident that the current Trail Blazers have the ability to win an NBA championship. However, Olshey’s mindset isn’t expected to be the same once the Trail Blazers struggle in the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season. According to Dan Favale of Bleacher Report, the Trail Blazers may consider parting ways with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum if they suffer another disappointing season.
“Keep an eye on the Blazers if their 2018-19 campaign goes sideways. Even then, McCollum could be the first to go. Lillard’s exit would signal a full-tilt rebuild, but they could spin moving a fringe star as part of a retooling process. He’d need to make life difficult behind closed doors as the Blazers regress amid the West’s bloodbath for his situation to reach critical mass.”
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) September 6, 2018
Trading Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum means that the Trail Blazers are ready to undergo a full-scale rebuild. Being buried deep in luxury taxes is definitely worth it if the team is a legitimate title contender. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers’ only greatest achievement in the last five years was reaching the Western Conference semifinals.
Now that LeBron James is playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, the competition in the Western Conference is expected to be tougher next season. In the ESPN Summer Forecast, panelist predicted the Trail Blazers to finish as the No. 10 seed in the Western Conference with a 43-39 win-loss record. If the prediction rings true, it is highly likely that the Trail Blazers will make Lillard and McCollum available on the trade market before the February NBA trade deadline, or in the summer of 2019.