The Blazers made a series of baffling trades to blow up their team around Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard stands with his hands on his hips and looks up.
Damian Lillard.Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Images
  • The Blazers have blown up their roster with two trades in the last week.

  • The moves are confusing as they traded valuable veteran players for very little in return.

  • Portland wants to build around Damian Lillard with another star, but they may not have the assets needed.

The Portland Trail Blazers needed a shake-up, but perhaps not this shake-up.

Over the last week, the Blazers have blown up their roster with two big trades that have confused the NBA world over why, exactly, the Blazers made them.

Portland has needed a shake-up. They had an expensive, veteran roster that, after eight straight playoff appearances, was falling apart. Damian Lillard is out for the foreseeable future after getting surgery to fix an abdominal injury. The team was flailing, and it appeared Portland needed to make drastic moves to reshape the roster around Lillard.

But in blowing up the roster, the Blazers traded talented veteran players who could help contenders for seemingly very little in return.

Last week, the Blazers traded guard Norman Powell and forward Robert Covington to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson, and a 2025 second-round pick.

Bledsoe has not yet played in Portland as rumors circulate that he will be waived or traded to another team. Winslow was once an attractive point-forward, but the soon-to-be-26-year-old is on his third team in three years and has played just 75 games over that time frame. Johnson is 19 years old and has shot 33% from the field in 15 career games.

Larry Nance Jr., Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Tony Snell, and Dennis Smith Jr. stand on the court during a game in 2021.
Larry Nance Jr. (back left), Norman Powell (front left), and Robert Covington (center) were all traded from the Blazers.Soobum Im/Getty Images

The trade looks even worse considering what Portland gave up for Covington and Powell. Two years ago, Portland traded a first-round pick and the draft rights to Isaiah Stewart (now on the Pistons) for Covington, the type of rugged, 3-and-D forward every playoff contender covets.

And last year, Portland traded up-and-coming guard Gary Trent Jr. to the Toronto Raptors for Powell. The Blazers gave Powell a five-year, $90 million contract this past offseason, and have already moved on. Meanwhile, Trent is averaging a career-high 18 points per game on 40% three-point shooting for the playoff-bound Raptors.

The Blazers took their blow-up a step further on Tuesday by trading Lillard's long-time runningmate C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans in a multi-player deal. The Blazers are sending McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell to the Pelicans in exchange for Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick, and two second-round picks, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

It's unclear how much more the Blazers could have gotten for McCollum. While he's a talented scorer, he is a 30-year-old, undersized guard who is under contract for two more years and $69 million after this season.

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard stand with their hands on their hips during a game in 2021.
C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard played nine years together.Matt Slocum/AP Images

Once again, Portland may not be making the best use of its assets. The Blazers traded a protected first-round pick and forward Derrick Jones Jr. for Nance this year. While Nance isn't a star, he's a useful, versatile big man off the bench, who, like Powell and Covington, fits on contending teams.

This isn't Portland's final roster

Portland still has other moves to make.

Wojnarowski reported that the Blazers intend to pursue "high-end" talent with the cap space and assets they got through these deals.

Blazers GM Joe Cronin wears a mask and sits on the bench next to Damian Lillard.
Blazers GM Joe Cronin has much work to do to reshape the Blazers roster around Damian Lillard.Soobum Im/Getty Images

It's unclear who the Blazers can get with these assets.

They received only one first-round pick in the deals, and it will only go to the Blazers if it lands from 5-14 in the draft, according to ESPN's Andrew Lopez.

Hart is a reliable wing who could be traded to a contender this season for a draft pick. Alexander-Walker may be the most attractive player of the bunch, but he is a 23-year-old combo guard shooting 37.5% from the field this year — he's not exactly a top-tier asset.

It's been reported that Lillard wanted the Blazers to acquire Ben Simmons from the Sixers. We know the Sixers want an All-Star player in return for Simmons and would not be interested in what Portland can offer.

These pieces don't seem to push Portland to the front of the race for any other disgruntled superstar, like, say, Bradley Beal or Karl-Anthony Towns.

The future cap space is nice in the event of a trade, but Portland has not historically been a top free-agent market.

In the meantime, the NBA world had plenty of jokes to make about the barren roster now surrounding Lillard, who has remained committed to winning a championship in Portland.

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The Blazers have put themselves on the clock with these moves — they need to reshape this roster to find another star to pair with Lillard.

If they don't do it quickly, Lillard will surely start to eye the exits.

Read the original article on Insider