By: Patrick Rodgers/Oregon Sports News
The trade deadline is looming, and the Portland Trail Blazers are in an awkward spot. We covered if they should tank last week, but it’s clear the logjam is here at the guard position. It’s become evident that the Trail Blazers, at full strength, have four starting level guards in Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Anfernee Simons. Who should the Blazers keep on the roster? Let’s look at each guard and why the Trail Blazers should keep or trade each player.
Reasons the Blazers should keep: Damian Lillard is the face of the Blazers, as we spoke about before. He’s hands down the best guard on the roster, the leader of the team, and loved by Trail Blazers fan base.
Reasons the Blazers should trade: Lillard is the best guard on the roster. He’s also the most valuable asset. Any team looking to immediately propel itself into contention for the championship would take a stab at acquiring Damian Lillard. That may prove challenging as he’s the 7th highest-paid player in the league. That would be good for the Blazers, as they could acquire a couple of pieces, pushing through the rebuilding phase faster.
Reasons the Blazers should keep: CJ has been the Robin to Dame’s Batman. There exists chemistry between the two that propels this duo to compete with the top guard combos in the league. As Phil Jackson said in his book, “The secret to basketball is that it’s not about basketball.”
Reasons the Blazers should trade: Out of the Blazers’ best top ten lineups, McCollum is only a part of four of them. His defense overall gives up more points than he can score this year. If McCollum were to be moved, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Blazers got back less than they desired.
Reasons the Blazers should keep: It would be hard to trade Norman Powell, given he just signed with the Trail Blazers this past year for five years. As he did with Toronto, Powell would provide a great spark off the bench if needed. He’s also relatively inexpensive, given other players around his paycheck perform at a lower level.
Reasons the Blazers should trade: Just like those spark plugs, Powell is not very efficient from the field this year. He’s also in four of the bottom six lineups that the Blazers have produced this year, primarily due to his lack of defense.
Reasons the Blazers should keep: Simons is only 22 years old and is finally getting consistent minutes for the Blazers. He could be their guard of the future if they choose to stay with him. From pin-down screens to isolation plays, Simons can score on and off the ball. His ability to push the ball provides great transition offense opportunities.
Reasons the Blazers should trade: The trend we’ve seen with all of these Blazers guards is the lack of defense, and the same goes for Simons. He seems to be still growing into his body, as his wiry frame allows him to be bullied by bigger guards. He doesn’t get to the free-throw line much, averaging under two attempts per game. Anfernee is also a restricted free agent, meaning other teams can offer Simons a contract next year, leaving it up to the Blazers to match that offer or let Simons go. Other teams may overbid on Simons to force the Blazers hand to match that offer, digging them further into the luxury tax.
Which Guards Should The Trail Blazers Retain?
If it were up to me, and my team success hinged on keeping two of these four guards, I’m keeping Dame and Simons. We all know that Dame’s struggles came from his lingering abdominal injury dating back to the summer. He’s finally getting surgery to rectify that issue and should be back at full strength by the end of the year. Also, if you trade him, you’re trading the face of the franchise. Without getting a star player back, you would signal to your fan base that it’s time to tank. Simons is the guard of the future for this team. He is only 22 years old and can learn valuable information on being an elite guard from Damian Lillard. Lillard and Simons’ defensive issues can be solved by a defensive-minded guard in return for McCollum and Powell, as they currently have no guards under 111 defensive rating. While this won’t fix all of the problems, this would be a step in the right direction.