Portland Trail Blazers stud guard Damian Lillard injured his knee during Monday’s blowout loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of their first-round NBA Playoff series.
Dame’s injury looked bad as it happened. We now have expected news on this front. The All-Star guard will miss Game 5 against the Lakers on Wednesday evening in Orlando with a right knee sprain.
Down 3-1 in the series and coming off a 20-point loss to Los Angeles Monday night, this pretty much ends Portland’s season. It’s yet another disappointing campaign for Lillard and fellow back-court star C.J. McCollum.
This could also lead to the end of an era in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s why.
Blazers could very well trade C.J. McCollum
- Lillard is the face of Portland’s franchise. He has no plans to join a super team elsewhere, even in his native Bay Area. Dame has made that clear on multiple occasions.
- Although, as currently formed, these Blazers are nowhere near NBA title contenders. That has been clear during their current series against the Lakers. It was also clear last season, when Portland was swept by the Kevin Durant-less Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
- If Portland is going to move forward with Lillard as the face of the franchise, trading McCollum makes the most sense. He’d net a lot in return, helping build a legit supporting cast behind Dame.
General manager Neil Olshey could be on the outs
- Since taking over for Mike Dunleavy back in March of 2010, Olshey has had some success in the draft. That includes selecting the likes of Lillard and McCollum.
- Although, the biggest issue has been his inability to find a supporting cast behind those two. It has really stood out in Orlando with Portland’s season on the brink.
- Being forced to rely on Anfernee Simons, Skal Labissière and Anthony Tolliver for substantial minutes is not a recipe for success. Even if you use the excuse of Rodney Hood’s injury and Trevor Ariza opting out of the season, it’s not enough to defend the GM.
- As for his tenure in Portland, the Blazers have now made the playoffs seven consecutive seasons with only one trip to the conference finals mixed in. That lack of improvement could be Olshey’s downfall.
Key free agents and salary cap situation
- Hassan Whiteside, Carmelo Anthony and Rodney Hood are all slated to become free agents. With the exception of Anthony, the other two could likely find greener pastures elsewhere.
- Even if the 2020-21 salary cap holds firm at $115 million (it won’t due to revenue downtick caused by COVID-19), Portland would have a mere $10 million in cap space with an ability to use only the mid-level exception.
- That’s not going to be enough to build up a supporting cast for Lillard. Hence, why trading McCollum makes the most sense.
Portland needs to do something this fall in order to change the landscape we’re seeing within its organization and roster. Things are not trending upward in the Pacific Northwest.
While Lillard and head coach Terry Stotts will be around next season, expect some major changes. That could start with McCollum and continue with the team looking at a new front office head.
At the very least, these Blazers in their current iteration are pretty much done. It’s just up to LeBron James and Co. to make that a reality Wednesday in Orlando.