Heads seem like they’re about to roll following the Portland Trail Blazers’ first-round sweep from the playoffs. Head coach Terry Stotts’ name has already entered the speculation mill, and apparently, the CJ McCollum-Damian Lillard backcourt isn’t far behind.
According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, certain NBA execs believed Blazers general manager Neil Olshey would break up the CJ-Dame partnership if the team flamed out in the postseason:
In February, Olshey called it a “false narrative” created by the media that the Lillard-McCollum backcourt should be broken up. “They’re one of the most explosive backcourts in the league. They’re both high-character guys. They play off each other well. They’re best friends off the floor. They’re in their prime or entering their prime,” Olshey said, which is all true. That’s what makes the conversation so hard. It’s been reported that Olshey has previously rejected offers for Lillard and McCollum. But that doesn’t mean the phones will stop buzzing. Even before this series, league executives had assumed that Olshey would break up the duo if they failed again. We’ll find out in due time, but the idea should be entertained.
Losing in four games to the New Orleans Pelicans certainly constitutes as a playoff flameout. But moving McCollum or Lillard won’t be that easy.
Yes, there will be suitors. Plenty of them. But there’s almost no way to come out of this situation looking appreciably better. Dealing McCollum on his own won’t get you enough depth or financial flexibility to extravagantly retool around Lillard. You don’t trade Lillard if you’re not committed to a long-term rebuild.
Portland’s cap situation only complicates matters. It will blow past the luxury-tax line if it plans on re-signing restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic. And this says nothing of potential new contracts for Ed Davis or Shabazz Napier.
Whatever the Blazers do, you can bet they’re in for interesting, if defining, offseason.