Analyzing Damian Lillard’s Less-Than-Ideal Situation with Trail Blazersby Patrick Champion January 30, 2020 0 comments
Portland Trail Blazers star point guard Damian Lillard has found himself in a bit of a pickle. In a league where it takes at least two stars to form a “superteam” and become a contender, Lillard seems to be the lone superstar on a team that isn’t contending anytime soon. Portland had high expectations coming into the season as they were nearly a consensus pick to make at least the second round of the playoffs, if not going even farther. However, the exact opposite has happened. They are currently 21-27 and sitting at 10th in the West, and they don’t seem to be improving anytime soon.
However, it’s not like this team is entirely devoid of talent outside of Lillard. C.J. McCollum is a great shooting guard, and he combines with Lillard for one of the best backcourts in the NBA. Not only that, but at the starting center position, they have Hassan Whiteside, a seven-footer who is consistently near the top of the league in blocks.
So, if they have one of the top backcourts in the NBA, a center averaging 10 rebounds and three blocks a game, and a coach who is a former NBA player and has coached the team since 2012 in Terry Stotts, who (or what) is the problem?
One problem is that outside of Lillard, Whiteside, and McCollum, there aren’t too many big names on the Blazers’ roster.
Trevor Ariza, who has been with the team for less than two weeks after being traded there from the Kings in exchange for Kent Bazemore, is their starting small forward, and at 34, he isn’t exactly a young player with limitless amounts of energy.
It’s the same story at the other forward position. That spot belongs to Carmelo Anthony, who until this season had been out of the league for essentially a whole year; he plays an average of over 32 minutes per game as a 35-year-old.
Additionally, nobody outside of Lillard or McCollum averages above 20 points per game, and nobody outside of those two or Whiteside averages above 15 points per game.
This begs the question: how much longer is Lillard willing to put up with this?
In a day and age of the NBA where a critical part of a player’s legacy is their rings, Lillard is a player with none to his name, and after what happened in free agency last year, it isn’t unreasonable to expect that he wouldn’t even attempt to form a superteam with another player.
Lillard has previously stated that he wants to be the guy for Portland and win them a title, but the Trail Blazers are a team that doesn’t seem like they can win the title anytime soon. They are high into the luxury tax already, which essentially stops them from signing a big-name free agent unless they can clear up a lot of cap space, which would only happen if they don’t re-sign another member of their big three once they hit free agency. On top of that, Portland isn’t a team that’s in a position to rebuild; they only have one first-round draft pick every year until 2026, and with the limited amount of assets that the Blazers have at their disposal in terms of roster talent, it doesn’t seem like their number of picks will increase.
Damian Lillard may have been patient so far, but if Portland disappoints and misses the playoffs with such high expectations at the beginning of the year, his patience could wear thin.