Portland Trail Blazers offseason report: Building a contender around Damian Lillard

Feb 4, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony (00) celebrates with guard CJ McCollum (3) after scoring against the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are constantly adding pieces to surround their superstar guard duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum the last few years.

After a mediocre season, the Blazers are going to welcome back some valuable pieces of their roster ahead of the 2020/21 season. In particular, Rodney Hood and Zach Collins, who were limited by injuries, will be back in full health, while Trevor Ariza might be part of the roster, after opting out from the NBA season restart in Orlando.

Ariza is coming with an asterisk, as he had a non-guaranteed year in his contract. His total amount is $12.8 million. If the Blazers choose to keep him for the 2021 season, they will guarantee this amount, and he will receive the entire $12.8 million.

Also, Hassan Whiteside’s contract is coming off the books, with Portland having two options in that case. Either they don’t re-sign Whiteside at all and use the space to sign another back-up center or perhaps they keep Whiteside with his full bird rights at a cheap, short-term deal to come off the bench like he has in Orlando.

Resigning Carmelo Anthony(?)

However, the biggest concern for the Blazers could be Carmelo Anthony’s free agency. Anthony became the third-wheel offense contributor behind Dame Lillard and CJ McCollum, after joining the team back in November.

It’s almost certain Anthony is going to receive interest, especially from teams on bigger markets, like the Knicks or even the Lakers. The Blazers will need wings and bigs that can cover McCollum’s and Lillard’s defensive deficiencies and help Portland improve their defensive metrics.

Terry Stotts’ squad was the third worst team in defensive rating(114.8) allowing 116.1 points per game during last season. Those stats, along with several injuries in key pieces, led the Blazers to the eighth seed, despite being one of the best teams in offensive production.

Draft and free agency

The Blazers’ FO has changes to make around the team’s structure and the liabilities that many pieces in the current roster may have. Also, the franchise is going to have two selections in the upcoming Draft, with the 16th and 48th pick, respectively.

The Blazers could proceed to make a selection to find a young talented wing with different qualities from Gary Trent Jr. Also, having in place various young assets along with the picks, they could put together an intriguing package if a star becomes available.

Even in the shallow 2020 free agent market, Portland could find upgrades in the wing and center position. Among several players in the 3-5, there are available options like Serge Ibaka, Danilo Gallinari, Derrick Favors, Jerami Grant (if opts out), Montrelz Harrell, Justin Holiday, Kentavious-Caldwell Pope, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Dwight Howard.

Most of them will be an upgrade for the current squad, but none of them is a game-changing talent for the Blazers. However, Portland could take advantage of the situation around the salary cap and the limited cap space due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In that regard, players could be also available in the trade market with several teams being expected to get active, especially those that they would like to offload contracts to avoid the luxury tax.

In any case, the Blazers are entering a crucial phase of the current team timeline with Damian Lillard being in his prime. Any offseason move this year may change the future of the organization for the better or worse.