Alright, it’s here! Blazersland Mailbag #4 where I answer your questions regarding the Portland Trail Blazers.
How close is Dame to being the best Blazer ever? – TorturedBlazerFan
Damian Lillard has quickly ascended the ranks of Portland Trail Blazer players to become one of the best in the team’s history. He has played seven seasons, achieved rookie of the year, 3 time all-star (hopefully, this year makes 4), and All NBA first team as of last year. He also has NBA 2nd and 3rd teams. He leads in several Blazer records, and will catch up before long in many more. Lillard has climbed the pinnacle faster than most players to wear the pinwheel. How close is he to being the best Blazer ever? Very.
In the minds and hearts of many fans he already has reached that title. It probably depends on what you mean by best ever. Stats wise? Leadership? Presence? The former is the only thing holding him back. Well, that and reaching the highest achievement of all, hoisting the O’Brien trophy. Winning a championship has been out of his reach thus yet, but I have no doubt, that if the Blazers are to get to the promise land again, he is their Moses.
Curious of what colleagues and friends would answer, I posed the question. The reactions were for the most part very similar. Hands steepled together, thumbs drumming. Nodding of the head of various degree to the left and the right. Stroking of the chin. Pursing of the lips. Contemplation. Then, the majorical answer, Lillard is the 3rd best. That is right, there are two players in his way to the top: Bill Walton and Clyde Drexler.
Bill Walton is the best Blazer ever so far, because he is the only Portland star to bring the Blazers all the way to the trophy. He played in Portland for four seasons, going all the way in his third. He did so, playing through the crux of several injuries. He is a 2 time all-star, an NBA MVP, NBA Finals MVP, All NBA 1st team, two time All-Defensive NBA 1st team, sixth man, blocks leader, rebounds leader. He went on to win second championship with Boston in 1986. As you see he has the credentials. The man sits rightfully on top.
Clyde Drexler is #2 on the list. He would be number 1 if he had won a championship in Portland. He failed to do so in his 11 seasons in Rip City. Though, he led the Blazers to the NBA finals twice, once in the 1989-1990 season against the Pistons, and again in the 1991-92 season against the Bulls. Drexler is a 10 time all-star, all NBA 1st team, and a 2 time all NBA 2nd and 3rd team. He still owns a majority of Portland’s records. He managed to win a championship with Houston the season after being traded from the Blazers. He is compared to Michael Jordan, though clearly was a pedestal or two below him. Drexler came second to Jordan in MVP votes in the 1991-1992 season. Clyde has carved himself a spot in Blazers history that will not be easily surpassed.
That goes to show you the rare talent that is Damian Lillard. The young guard has made a place for himself with good company. In four years once Lillard has played as many seasons as Drexler did with Portland, he will have most likely beaten most of Drexler’s records. Some such as Drexler’s defensive records are probably not in danger. So, only when Lillard surpasses Clyde the Glide for the most part in stats, and puts a ring on it, will he climb Portland’s Everest and become the undisputed best Blazer ever. Hopefully, it is sooner rather than later. But, regardless keep watch, history is being made.
What is the most important goal for NO to improve the Blazers? And what are NOs realistic chances of achieving this goal before the trade deadline? – Oldfisherman
The most important goal is to get rid of Turner and Leonard, and to try and do so without sacrificing the Blazers assets, namely 1st round picks. That is a large task, and an improbable one at that, considering Turner’s albatross contract and a highly overpaid Leonard to boot. Though I must say moving Leonard may be easier now with his uptick in production, owed to his new persona, “The Hammer.” Rebuilding teams like the Knicks and Cavaliers might take a chance on him. Portland has already eaten most of his contract.
The bench needs help in a terrible manner. They are averaging 46 points per game, .398% field goal shooting, and .236% from the arc. Neil needs to acquire a good two way player. The Blazers are weak at the forward position. They need consistent shooters who can help open the floor.
The Blazers really need a third scorer in the starting lineup to take the heat off of Dame and CJ. Nurkic for the most part already fits that bill, but the Blazers need another consistent shooter from the arc. This caliber player will be hard to get in a trade, which is why Neil is trying his darnedest at developing young players, in the hopes that he can get that third option homegrown. The problem is he has taken the wrong kind of risks and has set Portland back.
Knowing Neil, the likelihood of meeting these goals by the deadline is slim. He doesn’t like to kill his lovelies so to speak. He holds his cards close, and though he may be a card or two away from a winning hand, he doesn’t like to make a trade unless he knows he has gotten the better of his opponent.I do think that Neil will get a start on that goal by the deadline, most probably trading Leonard in combination with other players, but he will all most certainly have to include picks. This will cause Neil to hesitate, and might stall out a deal from getting completed. Whatever move happens at the deadline, it will probably be cosmetic.
Is there a line in the sand or a benchmark as to what the team win/loss record is come the trade deadline that would push the organization to explore major moves versus letting the cake bake? If so, what is it? – Jason O
The Blazers are three games ahead of where they were last season, after the toughest early schedule in recent memory. They have 15 games left before the deadline, unless they lose most or all of those games, or a GM calls with a deal that is simply too good to turn down, I don’t see the Blazers finding themselves across that line.
I don’t foresee the Blazers pulling off any major moves at the deadline for two main reasons. Portland is stuck with the behemoth contracts of Turner, Leonard, and Harkless. They will be hard pressed to find a team who is willing to take them on, especially without further compensation. Like I said above in answer to another question, Olshey doesn’t like to kill his lovelies. He also won’t admit that me messed up royally. He doesn’t like to give up a lot in a trade. He always likes to get more than he gives. And, he is a let the cake bake kind of guy.
If the Blazers go on a long losing streak before the deadline, Neil might be pressured to make a big deal, say including CJ McCollum, but don’t get your hopes up. It may be boring and quiet like last year when Neil paid Chicago to take Noah Vonleh. But, then again who knows. We will just have to wait and see.
Who should the Blazers trade CJ for? -Bryan B
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are one of the best back courts in the NBA. They are best friends, even more so, they are like inseparable brothers. That is all good. But, that said, their games don’t complement each other. They can’t seem to coexist in the same game. One is always on while the other is off. They both can play high octane offense and take over a game. They both attack the rim with savage grace and get screaming hot from the arc. They both find themselves to often in slumps. Their ppg averages are both over 20, but the problem is they don’t play with each other, but parallel to each other. This ends up hurting the team and costing wins, especially in the playoffs. If they played off each other more, it would help to break down defenses, and bring Portland’s offense up another notch.
Neil Olshey has stated numerous times that the Blazers will not trade Dame or CJ, but will build around them till they reach the trophy. That said we are in the fourth year of the Lillard-McCollum era and it can’t go forever. It is only a matter of time before one of them, most likely McCollum is traded. So if Neil was going to trade him, for who you ask?
Well the Blazers would need a new starting Shooting Guard. There was talk earlier in the season of trading him for Jimmy Butler. Since Butler was traded to Philly, that is probably moot. You can make the case for trading him to Milwaukee for Middleton and Hill/Brogdon. To the Clippers for Tobias Harris and Montrezl Harrell/Lou Williams. To the Magic with filler for Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross. To Boston with Turner for Hayward/Brown/Morris. These are a few scenarios and there are many more. Keep in mind though CJ is probably not going to get as much on the market as many fans are hoping. He probably won’t even be traded just yet. Neil wants to succeed in building a winner and is adamant to do it the hard way. He just better watch the cake so that it doesn’t burn.
That is the fourth edition of Blazersland Mailbag. If you want to see your questions answered in the next edition, submit them via the mailbag form at Blazersland.com/submit-questions/ -OR- by emailing them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org