After months of rumors, the Portland Trail Blazers have finally decided to break up their backcourt. The Blazers have reportedly traded C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans, raising questions about Damian Lillard’s future in Portland.
The Blazers receive Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Didi Louzada in the trade, according to ESPN. Portland also gets two second-round picks and a protected first-round selection. The first-rounder will convey to the Blazers this year if the Pelicans’ pick falls somewhere between 5-14 in the 2022 NBA Draft.
New Orleans takes back McCollum, Larry Nance and Tony Snell in the trade.
There was speculation in the summer that Lillard might ask for a trade. Now that Portland has parted ways with Lillard’s best teammate, there’s even further speculation that the Blazers might be forced to move the superstar and go ahead with a full rebuild.
However, that doesn’t appear to be in the organization’s plans.
New Orleans' 2022 first-round pick:
1-4: Goes to the Pelicans
5-14: Goes to the Blazers
15-30: Goes to the Hornets
– Blazers get a future first-round pick if it doesn't convey
– Hornets get future second-round picks if it doesn't convey
— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) February 8, 2022
Portland's plan is to fully reshape roster around Damian Lillard now. Portland created a $21M trade exception today, potentially $60M in salary cap space this summer, multiple draft picks and assets via Pels and Clippers trades. Plan is to pursue high-end talent now, not retreat.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 8, 2022
Portland plans to reshape its roster around Lillard, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal created a $21 million trade exception for the Blazers. Trading McCollum and his $33.3 million salary for the 2022-23 season frees up cap space for Portland.
There’s a good chance that the Blazers will have two lottery picks in this year’s draft. New Orleans has the ninth-worst record in the NBA. Portland is right behind the Pelicans with the sport’s eighth-worst record, and they could be headed even further down the standings.
Losing McCollum makes the Blazers worse this season. Lillard is still recovering from abdominal surgery, which could keep him off the court for several more weeks. Maybe Lillard won’t return at all in an effort to both fully recover and help Portland get a higher draft pick.
A sizable trade exception and two high first-round picks might put the Blazers in the market to acquire an All-Star-caliber player in the offseason. Portland could keep one or both picks and try to build a young roster around Lillard.
The abdominal injury has limited Lillard to 29 games and a career-worst 40.2% field-goal shooting this season. In the 2020-2021 season, Lillard averaged 28.8 points and 7.5 assists per game. The 31-year-old was a top-eight MVP vote-getter five times from 2016 to 2021.
The Blazers are likely going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
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