The Portland Trail Blazers have found themselves in a difficult predicament. While the organization's front office believed its team has what it takes to make a run in the Western Conference, the Blazers have been quite underwhelming at this point.
Twenty-five games into the 2021-2022 NBA season, the Blazers are 11-14. They rank tenth in the West and lost six of their last ten games. Damian Lillard's recent absences haven't done them any favors. CJ McCollum's setback will make it even harder for them to pick up wins.
As the Blazers continue to struggle on the court, their situation off the court hasn't been much better. Recently, Portland fired its longtime President of Basketball Operations, Neil Olshey. With Olshey's departure, many believe it's only a matter of time before Portland gets a roster shakeup.
Will Damian Lillard request a trade? Many believed the six-time All-Star would reach a breaking point and finally request one, but he hasn't reached that point yet. While all signs indicate the Blazers will more than likely search for players to complement Lillard's game -- one NBA insider suggests the Blazers should actually move Lillard to the Philadelphia 76ers -- and they don't think the deal they make should be the obvious trade that lands Portland Ben Simmons.
Instead, ESPN's Bobby Marks suggests the Blazers should consider a trade centered around Tobias Harris. In the deal, the Sixers would net Lillard and Cody Zeller. Meanwhile, they would dish out Harris, the emerging second-year guard Tyrese Maxey, the third-year defensive ace Matisse Thybulle, and a top-10 protected 2022 first-round pick.
The Case for the Trade
"No, that is not a typo. Yes, we're suggesting a trade in which the Blazers send Damian Lillard to Philadelphia and do not get All-Star Ben Simmons in return. Although Simmons is still only 25 years old and is one of the top defenders in the league (plus still has four years left on his contract), the goal for Portland should be to retool the roster and not launch a full-scale rebuild centered around Simmons. ...
"The mechanics of this trade would see Portland take Lillard's $39.3 million salary and break it up into three quality starters who are on controllable contracts in Harris, Maxey and Thybulle. That would give Portland a quality young backcourt with Maxey, Thybulle and Norman Powell, allowing the Blazers to shift gears and also begin looking for a trade partner for CJ McCollum."
Who Says No?
A Portland-Philadelphia trade centered around Damian Lillard and Tobias Harris; Who says no? The Blazers, probably. Right now, the chances of Portland moving Lillard are slim. Since 2012, Lillard's been the face of their franchise and has remained loyal even through frustrating times.
Unless the star guard requests a trade himself, which he doesn't seem to plan to anytime soon, the Blazers likely won't consider moving him unless their next General Manager makes a convincing pitch to Portland's ownership.
And if Lillard does become available, landing a Tobias Harris-centric package for a six-time All-Star franchise player probably wouldn't be met with applause in Portland. While Harris is a solid veteran player, he's struggled to step up and become a reliable first or second option for the Sixers at times.
As for Thybulle and Maxey, the former is a defensive phenom but doesn't offer much value on the offensive end, which causes spacing issues. Meanwhile, the latter has shown a lot of improvement in year two, but his 23 games this season are a small sample size, making it hard to predict what level he can really reach in the NBA.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.