By STEVEN VAUGHAN, 750 THE GAME
July 1, 2023 is the date Portland Trail Blazers fans will remember forever. Chris Haynes had the tweet. Damian Lillard has requested a trade from the franchise.
I’m always looking forward. I’m always looking to how to get the Trail Blazers closer to a championship.
I know it’s a hard day for Blazers fans that love Damian Lillard. Lillard has done so much good for the organization and so much good for the community. But in a weird way I am excited. With Damian Lillard on the team. I was always wondering what the pathway was to be relevant, and I had a hard time figuring it out. Now that Lillard has requested a trade. The path is clear. Go young.
By going young you look right at second year player, Shaedon Sharpe, and rookie number three overall pick, Scoot Henderson. Sharpe is 20 years old and Henderson is 19 years old. They are the future and the present. Build around those two.
Lillard has made it clear he wants to go to Miami and understandably so. Miami is coming off of being Eastern Conference champions and just falling short to the Denver Nuggets in five game in the NBA Finals. But is the package enough? According to multiple sources, the trade package Miami can offer is centered around Tyler Herro and Jamie Jacquez Jr., who was the 18th pick in this years draft. It’s not enough in my opinion and as of right now it doesn’t seem Joe Cronin is a fan either according to Woj.
I don’t fully trust Joe Cronin at this point. But this is a good sign. To not give in and trade Lillard to Miami is what I want to hear. If Lillard ends up in Miami it has to be because it’s what’s best for the franchise. Right now, the Heat don’t have the best package. No matter what happens. I respect Joe Cronin for doing what’s best for the franchise. That’s drafting Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson. The next step would be to trade Lillard for the best package no matter what team he heads to.
It’s not all negative in Rip City. Scoot Henderson officially signed his contract with the franchise and is getting ready for the Summer League with his new backcourt mate, Shaedon Sharpe. Scoot was in awe of Sharpe’s ability and the Trail Blazers have two young players in the backcourt who, unlike in the past, fit well together. They are not two smaller guards. Sharpe is 6’6″ with long arms. We have been used to CJ McCollum and Anfernee Simons. Two guys who are 6’3″ and didn’t play good defense. While defense is still a question for Sharpe and Henderson. We have to hope it’s better.
I never thought the Blazers were close to contending. There was never 1, 2, 3, maybe even 4 moves that the Blazers could make to make them a contender. With Lillard being 32 years old. The choice was easy to me. Explore the trade of Dame and build with the Sharpe and Scoot. Now that Lillard is going to be on the move. The Blazers will be in a great spot to rebuild. Sharpe averaged nearly 24 ppg in the last 10 games of the season while shooting 46% and 38% from three point range. Scoot Henderson was thought to be a generational talent who in most drafts would have been the first pick. The trade of Dame should bring in some draft picks and some young players. To be honest, that’s a good start to a rebuild.
With all of that said. The Blazers are going to have a rough record next season. There will be a lot of mistakes made. In my mind, it’s not going to be about wins and losses. It will be about fit between their two young stars in the backcourt and the continuing progression of Sharpe and Scoot and see if any of the other role players pop. It’s not a guarantee that this will work. But if you’re honest with yourself. It wasn’t working with Dame either. The Blazers weren’t going into the last two seasons looking to tank. That’s how both seasons ended. The best case scenario for this team is the playin tournament had they kept Lillard. I want more. I want a shot at a championship so I can take my kids to the parade. Unfortunately with Damian Lillard as the Blazers best player, and how the roster is constructed around him. That wasn’t going to happen.
For the first time in a long time. I can see the pathway for the Blazers to becoming a contender. Unfortunately for some, the franchise’s all time leading scorer won’t be a part of it.