The Portland Trail Blazers have been one of this season’s most frustrating teams and are currently the ninth seed in a stacked Western Conference. After the death of owner Paul Allen, the team is without a committed ownership group and head coach Terry Stotts has been on the hot seat repeatedly. So how can the Blazers take the next step? Should they consider trading Damian Lillard? The Open Floor podcast discusses that and more.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: I am of two minds of where the Blazers are now because on the one hand, I agree with what you are saying where you are not going to get back equal value if you give up someone like C.J. McCollum or Damian Lillard, like it’s not going to work out that way. You can try to trade Lillard for Ben Simmons and launch a new era but past that, it’s not going to work.
Ben Golliver: The Lillard trade is not going to happen. That is the one thing that bugs me when I read about how other people will try to fix the Blazers. They will not do that. Lillard will be the untouchable piece until the end of time—it will be the other guys they look to move and I think that’s the problem—none of those other guys really have much trade value.
Sharp: I understand what you are saying there and I do think that the Blazers will be able to stabilize things over the next month or two. They literally do this every year where they go through one or two months on the brink and then Dame will get hot and I bet in February or March we are going to be like ‘Oh my god look at the Blazers’. We will go through the motions again.
The part I worry about though, is that you talked about coach Stotts squeezing the last bit of lemonade out of these lemons and I think that sometimes it happens to an entire organization. You talked about the fans kinda being a little bit fit lifeless this year and I think we have seen it in Houston, we have seen it in Washington, and eventually we saw it with the Clippers a couple years ago. When you come up short over and over again, it starts to take a toll on everyone involved in the process.
That is the one thing I worried about when they lost to the Pelicans last year and who knows what will happen this year? And if it does get dark, that is when I would get worried if I was a Blazers’ fan. Here is the thing about trading Damian Lillard: I know Portland is committed to Dame but he is going to be eligible for a gigantic contract and he is going to be overpaid and it is going to be hard to build around him and that money is going to matter. It is something you consider when you map out the future. I don’t think it would make sense for either side to commit to that deal and continue this partnership.
Golliver: You are getting ahead of yourself. He has years left.
Sharp: He has like two years left!
Golliver: They don’t have to make that decision now. They don’t even have an owner. When he is not on the court right now, they are at a minus-nine net rating, which means they are basically getting blown off the court when he is not on it.
Sharp: I understand that but if he makes the All-NBA team this year, he is going to be supermax eligible and if he doesn’t sign it, it is going to get interesting. And if he does sign it, I don’t necessarily think that is the best idea for the next five years in Portland. It’s just a tricky situation.
Golliver: He is in his third-year of a five-year contract—it’s too early to be talking about what that next contract is going to look like.
Sharp: Wait a second! You were the one on Monday hammering about Giannis and if Milwaukee loses guys. This is what we do with every superstar.
Golliver: I think it is a slightly different situation because Giannis is in a completely different class of players as Damian Lillard and he is going to be the kind of guy where everyone is going to want him. 30 teams is not going to want Damian Lillard when he becomes a free agent, especially if he is looking at supermax level money, that is just unrealistic.
He is already three or four years older than Giannis and by the time he gets to free agency, he is going to be in that Kemba Walker hitting free agency next summer mold as opposed to a top-five player in the league, MVP level type of guy hitting free agency mold.
I also think, they are horrible without Lillard this year and he is all that they got. They love him. He has made statements that he wants to be the greatest Blazer of all-time and I really think he likes being the big fish in a small pond up there. I don’t see a situation where he is like, “I am going to break you down for every penny in negotiations or I am going to walk.” I just think as Olshey is there, he is going to do whatever it takes to take care of Lillard.