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Portland Trail Blazers rumors, top trade & free-agent targets for 2021 NBA offseason

Portland Trail Blazers rumors are flying early in their offseason, which came earlier than the franchise had hoped after they were eliminated by the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

The Blazers are on the hunt for a new head coach, and are entering a massive summer where they must figure out how to assemble a legitimate contender around superstar point guard Damian Lillard.

Can general manager Neil Olshey get the right new voice in the locker room to succeed where Terry Stotts fell short? Will Olshey overhaul the roster, or make minor tweaks and hope the coaching change makes the biggest difference?

Whatever happens, all eyes will be on Portland. Let’s take a look at some trade scenarios, free-agent targets and the latest buzz surrounding the Blazers.

Portland Trail Blazers rumors: Damian Lillard taking hands-off approach to coaching vacancy

The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported that despite Lillard previously stating he’d prefer Portland to hire Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups, he’ll leave it up to Blazers leadership to make the right call:

“A source with knowledge of the situation said Lillard is not making demands of any kind when it comes to the coaching hire. The front office and ownership will do their jobs while communicating with him along the way.”

It’s great that there’s a mutual understanding between Lillard and the organization, that there are open lines of communication, and that there’s a strong relationship there. This will help the loyal Lillard continue to want to remain with the Blazers.

Really, all Portland needs is a credible, competent leader who can coach defense. The Blazers ranked 29th in defensive rating this past season, which just isn’t going to get it done in the highly competitive Western Conference.

Portland Trail Blazers trade scenarios for 2021 NBA offseason

Moving off CJ McCollum should be a strong consideration

Portland Trail Blazers trade scenarios for 2021 NBA offseason
Jan 11, 2021; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (3) shoots the ball past Toronto Raptors shooting guard Norman Powell (R) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Again, you could argue that the right coach will get this core of Portland players moving in the right direction, especially if a substantial improvement can be made on the defensive end.

But maybe it’s as simple as Lillard and CJ McCollum both being so dynamic on offense that they don’t have enough to give defensively. Thus, Lillard needs more of a two-way backcourt mate to have the Blazers consistently competing for championships.

There are a number of teams who’d be interested in acquiring McCollum because of his excellent offensive skill set. It’s possible that he’d be better off somewhere else, where his defensive shortcomings could be masked by a talented supporting cast.

McCollum is easily the biggest trade chip Portland has, so any huge roster shakeup would start by sending him somewhere else. Blazers fans would hate to see him go, as would Lillard, but it may be in the best interest of all parties involved.

Swing a blockbuster trade for Paul George

Portland Trail Blazers trade scenarios for 2021 NBA offseason
Aug 8, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) looks to pass as Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) and center Jusuf Nurkic (27) defend during the second half in an NBA basketball game at The Field House. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
  • Clippers get: CJ McCollum, Robert Covington & 3 first-round picks
  • Blazers get: Paul George & Rajon Rondo

The above article outlines some excellent trade scenarios, but here’s a tweaked version of a mock trade that sends McCollum to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sacrificing that many draft picks to make a Paul George trade work would be well worth the cost for the Blazers, especially if Rajon Rondo came over from the Clippers as part of this massive deal.

George has been one of the best two-way players in the NBA for several years. However, he’s a questionable basketball fit in LA alongside Kawhi Leonard. They essentially play the same position, and they’re too decorated of players to be in that situation. If they don’t win a championship this postseason, it wouldn’t be a huge shock if George gets traded.

It’s also true that the Clippers need a better pure guard who can also distribute. That’s where McCollum would step in and fit nicely with that squad’s current core. Robert Covington would give Los Angeles more depth on the wing and someone who can rebound extremely well for his size.

As for the Blazers’ side of this, PG13 and Rondo would give them that defensive boost they need. George is a worthy No. 2 alongside Lillard, and Rondo could provide a spark off the bench running the offense for Portland’s No. 2 unit.

Top Portland Trail Blazers free-agent targets this summer

  • Kelly Oubre Jr., SF, Golden State Warriors
  • Victor Oladipo, SG, Miami Heat
  • Evan Fournier, SF/SG, Boston Celtics

WATCH: Sportsnaut’s Carolyn Manno on the latest NBA news & rumors