Despite numerous calls for them to break their explosive backcourt duo, the Portland Trail Blazers still choose to keep Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on their team. Instead of giving up on their two best players, they continue to find ways to surround them with quality players that could help them carry the team to the top of the loaded Western Conference and capture the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey recently addressed the rumors surrounding McCollum, with Jason Quick of The Athletic reporting that the executive "staunchly rejected" the idea of trading the shooting guard.
However, some people still believe that the Trail Blazers should explore the possibility of trading McCollum if they are presented with a deal that could significantly improve their chances of winning a championship. According to Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report, trading McCollum should be "seriously considered" by Portland if they would be getting Houston Rockets superstar James Harden in return.
"While Portland has resisted trading McCollum in the past, there's rarely been an upgrade at shooting guard available. Now there is. A backcourt of Lillard and Harden would easily be the best in the NBA, even if it took some time to get the chemistry right. Parting with McCollum should be a last resort in any and all trades, but doing so to get Harden should be seriously considered by Olshey and the Blazers front office."
Trading McCollum would likely be a tough decision for the Trail Blazers, but it would be worth it if it means replacing him with an MVP-caliber shooting guard like Harden. Talent-wise, Harden is arguably a major upgrade for McCollum at Portland's starting shooting guard position. Compared to him, "The Beard" is a much better scorer and playmaker on paper.
Harden could give Damian Lillard a new superstar running mate who is more capable of stepping up and taking charge of the offense in crucial situations when the opposing team's defense is focused on him. As Swartz noted, it might still take time for Harden and Lillard to mesh well on the court but once they develop the right chemistry, the Trail Blazers could have the best backcourt duo in the league.
Meanwhile, it's hard to see the Rockets passing on a blockbuster deal that could give them back another All-Star-caliber player like McCollum in return. However, to further convince them to send Harden to Portland, the Trail Blazers may also need to include young prospects and future first-round picks in the trade package.