Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


The Portland Trail Blazers’ Roster Mystery

If the playoffs started today, the Blazers would be out of the play-in tournament. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard has been having one of the best seasons of his career at age 32. The front office seems torn on which direction they want to go; should they rebuild or try to maximize Damian Lillard’s prime?


The Portland Trail Blazers are tied for twelfth in the Western Conference with a 31-35 record. In terms of the entire league, the only teams the Blazers are ahead of are those that have been going through either a retooling or complete rebuilding of their roster. Should the Blazers also construct their roster like the teams below them in the standings? 

Portland’s Challenging Roster Construction

This year’s trade deadline has passed, but this will be a difficult conversation for management in the offseason. Portland is among the most challenging teams to know which roster direction to go.

Defensive Flaws

Last season, the Blazers traded away CJ McCollum in large part due to the emergence of Anfernee Simons. This move gave Simons more opportunity and reduced the positional overlap. Lillard and Simons are arguably a top-two shooting backcourt duo in the league. It’s clear the offense has never been the issue for Portland; they rank sixth in team offensive efficiency.

The Blazers aren’t currently in the playoff race because of their defense. They are 27th in team defensive efficiency. The same defensive problems they had with the Lillard-McCollum pairing are prevalent with the Lillard-Simons pairing. As talented as Lillard and Simons are, they are undersized at 6’2” and 6’3”, respectively. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Their typical starting center, Jusuf Nurkic, is out with a left calf strain, but he’s more of a traditional, back-to-the-basket big that has trouble guarding out on the perimeter. The undersized guard duo and Nurkic’s lack of defensive versatility make the Blazers extremely exploitable of defense; this is especially true in today’s NBA, where teams will run numerous pick-and-rolls to get the particular matchups and switches they prefer. 

If the Blazers decide to keep the lethal offensive tandem of Lillard and Simons together for the future, they will need to drastically improve the defense surrounding them to cover up for their flaws.

“No Man’s Land” In The Standings

As mentioned earlier, the only teams below Portland in the standings are teams that didn’t necessarily expect to compete for a playoff spot this year. The worst place in the standings is “no man’s land,” where teams compete for a play-in spot; this is because it’s doubtful they will make any noise in the playoffs if they even make it. If they don’t make the playoffs, they still won’t have great lottery odds to secure a coveted top draft pick. This year’s draft class makes those lottery odds even more crucial. There is a ton of talent at the top of the draft, most notably Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Maximizing Damian Lillard’s Prime

What makes the Portland situation so challenging is that typically a team in this situation would completely tank to increase in the draft lottery. However, they have a top-75 all-time player in Damian Lillard, who is extremely loyal to the franchise. He recently scored 71 points at age 32, meaning the window to compete while he’s still an elite talent is narrowing.

Blazers’ Trade Deadline Acquisition

The Blazers made a four-team trade with the Knicks, Hornets, and 76ers.

Trail Blazers receive: Cam Reddish, Matisse Thybulle, Ryan Arcidiacono, New York’s 2023 first-round pick (top-14 protected)

Knicks receive: Josh Hart

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Hornets receive: Svi Mykhailiuk, Philadelphia’s 2023 second-round pick, Portland’s 2027 second-round pick

76ers receive: Jalen McDaniels, Charlotte’s 2024 second-round pick, Portland’s 2029 second-round pick

The Blazers were a hot topic of discussion before the trade deadline; teams and analysts were curious to see if their young players like Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe would be available in an aggressive “win now” move to maximize Damian Lillard’s prime. 

They ended up keeping their young assets and trading away Hart, who many believed to be on the move because of his unique contract. Hart had a player option for next season, but none of the money was guaranteed, making it likely that he would be seeking a new contract. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

Final Thoughts

Their roster construction is reminiscent of the Golden State Warriors in terms of the young prospects and how their timeline would align with the aging veterans. The Warriors recently traded James Wiseman, but last year they won the championship while still retaining all their young players. 

Whether through the draft or free agency, the Blazers must fix their lack of defensive versatility. If they can address that and have Simons and Sharpe continue their developmental trajectory, Lillard might have enough around him to at least give the Blazers a chance in the playoffs.

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.
Written By

Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Reese is an avid Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Suns fan! He also manages way too many fantasy football teams.

Stadium Rant Recommends


The Celtics suffered a disappointed end to their 2023 campaign. Here's a big reason why.


Find out who is the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T) and has been a part of 25 percent of all NBA Finals in league...


The 2023 NBA Finals are set between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat. Who will win?


The Warriors lost a vital front-office piece in Bob Myers, is this the beginning of the end for their dominant dynasty?