The Portland Trail Blazers’ decision to hire head coach Chauncey Billups could potentially lead to star guard Damian Lillard requesting a trade from the organization.
It’s not as much about Portland hiring Billups to replace the recently-fired Terry Stotts as it is the process that led to embattled general manager Neil Olshey coming to this conclusion. At the end of the day, it appears that Dame is not happy about the direction of the organization and the aforementioned coaching search. Here’s three reasons why he’d be 100% justified to request a trade.
Damian Lillard wasting away in Portland
Four first-round NBA Playoff exits in five years. A supporting cast that has done absolutely nothing to elevate the Blazers to top-tier championship contention status. A General manager in Neil Olshey who lacks respect around the league. These are three backstories as it relates to the 30-year-old Lillard potentially wanting out of dodge.
Pretty much due the roster construct under Olshey (not Stotts’ coaching), Portland just hasn’t had the right mix behind Dame and C.J. McCollum. Last season saw Norman Powell finish third on the team in scoring at 17 points per game. He came over in a mid-season trade for Gary Trent Jr., a questionable move from Olshey in the first place, and played in 27 games. Of Portland players who remained with the team throughout the season, an aging Carmelo Anthony was third behind Lillard and McCollum in scoring at 13.4 points per outing. Ouch!
The story was equally as troublesome on the defensive end of the court. Only one player on Portland’s roster finished with a defensive wins shares above 2.0 (Robert Covington 2.4). Eight regular member of the Blazers’ rotation had a defensive wins shares of under 1.0. To put this into perspective, eight regular members of the Denver Nuggets’ rotation saw their DWS stand at above one once the regular season came to a conclusion. Hence, one of the reasons why a Jamal Murray-less Nuggets squad beat Portland in Round 1.
Neil Olshey is a problem
Following Portland’s decision to fire the aforementioned Stotts, the embattled general manager gave one weird press conference. It included Olshey blaming his former head coach for a lack of defense (23rd in points allowed, 29th in defensive rating).
“In this instance, the 1st round loss, the defense was not a product of the roster,” Olshey told reporters.
Imagine that. A roster with an aging Carmelo Anthony and two score-first backcourt players in Lillard and McCollum being an issue on the defensive end of the court. It’s almost as if Olshey can’t take responsibility for constructing this roster in his mold.
Oh, but there’s more.
“Neil Olshey mucked this coaching search up from the get-go. Better believe his reputation has taken a hit among league circles as a result. Players around the league will also take note. Dame is as respected as they come – he deserves so much better and Olshey poisoned the well,” ESPN’s Jordan Schultz noted recently. “Olshey is a joke. Not well regarded with anyone I’ve spoken with.”
Perhaps, those around the Association have finally come to the conclusion that Olshey answers to no one else but himself. It’s led to some disastrous free agent signings in the past. And in reality, it could lead to Damian Lillard calling it for his career in Portland.
Damian Lillard might be loyal to a fault
That’s the most important to thing to note here. In today’s NBA climate, it’s great to see a true superstar remain loyal to the organization that drafted him. Lillard has in the past pushed back against forming a super team elsewhere. It’s why rumors about a potential trade have been muted in the years leading up to this summer. Not anymore.
“Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large part due to the tremendous fan base. But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said,” Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes noted in his original report about Lillard’s unhappiness.
That’s the crux of the issue. Portland boasts a general manager who is losing any league-wide respect he might have had. It doesn’t possess the financial capabilities, young assets and/or draft picks to significantly upgrade an underperforming roster.
Now at 30 years old, Damian Lillard wants to win. Whether it’s with the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers or about another 10 teams in the NBA, they would all give him a better chance at contention than Portland. That’s the cold-hard truth, and it would justify Dame requesting a trade from the Pacific Northwest.