Portland Trailblazers: a make or break season

Max Young, Staff Writer

  While controversy continues around Damian Lillard’s future with the Trail Blazers, this might be the last chance for the Blazers to keep the superstar in Portland.

   Damian Lillard, one of the league’s most loyal superstars, might look to move on from the Trail Blazers organization. While CJ McCollum is seen as an elite NBA player, Lillard has not played with another all star since the departure of Lamarcus Aldridge. In an attempt to keep Lillard a Trailblazer, the organization could look to acquire a star player like Ben Simmons. 

   For the first time in almost a decade, they will start the season with a new coach at the helm: Chauncey Billups. Whether a big trade will happen this year or not, this season is seen as a pivotal one for the Blazers.

   In an interview this summer with Chris Haynes from Yahoo Sports, Damian Lillard addressed the rumors about him requesting a trade. While he stayed firm on staying with the Blazers, he also called for changes to be made.

   “I’m not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great. We’re not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, ‘Man, this just isn’t going to work,” Lillard said.

   With the addition of a more defensive minded coach in Chauncey Billups, fans are expecting to see a breakout year from center Jusuf Nurkić. Nurkić, who was once seen as one of the best centers in the league, has declined in performance after his 2019 injury.

   “I know it is odd to see Nurkić on this list, but I think his contract situation could lead to a big season. He strikes me as a player that is ready to put it all out on the floor ahead of his unrestricted free agency.” Blazer’s Edge writer Steven Dewald said. 

   While the Trailblazers will need to see some of the players on their current roster step up, it might not be enough to get them over the hump. With the pressure from Damian Lillard, the front office might look to make a blockbuster trade that could change the entire team. With the Blazers looking to acquire a new star, all eyes are on all-star Ben Simmons. The disgruntled 76’ers star has asked to be traded, and the Blazers are seen as a primary suitor. 

   “When they play against teams like Denver and you’re having to guard somebody like Jokić, you play against the Lakers. These guys have stars that are going to dominate on that [the offensive] end of the floor,” Blazers Edge writer Corey Randall said.  “Ben Simmons helps with a lot of those issues. And although he can’t shoot, He’s a great playmaker; he can pass with the best of them, is a great rebounder, and at his size I think you can utilize him.”

   As fans look towards the next season with the additions of the offseason so far in Larry Nance Jr and Greg Brown, we can hope to see the Blazers in the middle of the playoff bracket, but they still aren’t seen as contenders by most big publications. 

   “The Blazers enter the season with a dangerous starting five. If that group can stay healthy and sustain their production from last season, the Blazers should be in the hunt for home-court advantage in the postseason. The addition of Nance Jr. adds flexibility to Portland’s postseason rotation and that could be enough to push this squad past the first round” Dewald said. 

   No matter what happens this season, it is widely believed that this is likely to be the last season we see the superstar backcourt together in Portland. 

  “Either way, I think this is finally the make-or-break season for the Lillard-McCollum backcourt,” Dewald said.