Blazers Stuck Between Building and Preserving Lillard’s Stock


On a Tuesday night in mid-May, the NBA Draft Lottery gave new light to the Portland Trail Blazers.

The team won the No. 3 pick, coming with its speculation on what the team would do with the selection. As it stands, there are three clear offseason options for the Blazers, two of them involving trades. 

The options were relatively simple. You could either keep the pick, trade it in a package with young players to get a star or move on from Damian Lillard. Riddled with options, however, it is unclear which route the front office will take moving forward. 

Blazers Offseason Option 1: Keep the core; use the pick 

With the third pick, there are two players likely to be available for the Blazers— Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller. Henderson, a 6-foot-2-inch guard who played the 2022 season with the G-League Ignite, is more likely to be the player available, as the Charlotte Hornets are slated to pick Miller with the second pick in most mock drafts

Henderson does not have an NBA-ready three-point shot but is a good playmaker. However, the Blazers are already riddled with guard play from Lillard, Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons, making his selection make the most sense if you move on from at least one of the backcourt players. 

Miller, on the other hand, is a 6-foot-9-inch forward from Alabama who averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game last season. His fit is rather seamless, as he can start immediately with the current roster. With Jonathan Givony reporting that Henderson is interested in the Hornets, Miller sliding to the third pick is not completely out of the question. 

Keeping the pick is a very likely outcome, but drafting a new young player does nothing for win-now players like Lillard. Lillard said he had no interest in adding a young player, a testament to his win-now mentality.

“I’m just not interested in that. That’s not a secret,” Lillard said in April when asked about adding another young player. “I want a chance to go for it.

Blazers Offseason Option 2: Packing Simons and the pick for a “star” 

With the Blazers looking to grab an elite small forward to pair with their star point guard, the only question is which elite players are available. For a package that would include the pick, Simons and other players, the options are rather thin. 

Some of the options seem unlikely while others make sense for both sides. Names like Jaylen Brown, Karl-Anthony Towns, Mikal Bridges, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam all make sense to join Lillard’s quest to bring the Blazers a ring.

Assuming the team retains free agent and 20-point scorer Jerami Grant, the starting lineup appears to be:

  • PG – Lillard
  • SG – Sharpe 
  • SF – Grant / Trade Acquisition 
  • PF – Trade Acquisition / Grant 
  • C – Jusuf Nurkić

If the trade route is the one taken, the next task is to fill a shallow bench with anything the team can get their hands on, preferably as part of the core trade. A core of Lillard, Sharpe, Grant and a new player has the potential of a playoff run. 

Despite that potential, the Western Conference is stacked, with the Denver Nuggets having won the 2023 NBA Finals in dominant fashion, the Golden State Warriors being one year removed from the title, and the Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies staying comparable if not better than that projected Blazers team. 

Blazers Offseason Option 3: Trade Lillard 

Again and again, Lillard has preached loyalty to the team. If he is truthful about the desire to win, however, he looks better suited outside of the Pacific Northwest. 

An All-NBA Third Team member in 2023, Lillard does not come cheap, but many teams are looking to bid for his services. A healthy chunk of the league has rumored interest in the guards’ services, including the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics

While all potential trade partners have unique potential benefits, a swap of Lillard and Jaylen Brown makes a relative amount of sense for both teams, despite it also making sense for the two to team up in Portland

A core of 26-year-old Brown, Simons, Sharpe, Henderson or Miller and Nurkić is likely a playoff team already. Even a half-decade in the future, maybe a title contender if player development goes smoothly.

The prospect of winning a title in 2024 is very enticing. Despite that, there does not appear to be a way a trade will reach that goal. There is not a player available that, with Lillard, will bring the team over the hump, barring a miracle. 

So, the best option for the Blazers is to give Lillard a chance to win a title on another team. In doing so, they should retire his number to hang in Moda Center as a showing of gratitude for the loyalty he showed and for his remarkable series-winning playoff shots. 

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About Brandon Willman

Multimedia Journalism student in the PNW with a passion for sports writing. Washington native and fell in love with the Blazers at a young age.

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