The Portland Trailblazers have wasted another year of Damian Lillard and his hall-of-fame career. They currently sit at 33-45 and 13th in the Western Conference. They are 5.5 games back of the 10th seed and current holder of the last play-in spot, the Oklahoma City Thunder. With Lillard shut down for the season, the Trailblazers have mailed it in. Portland will now look ahead to the offseason and building a team with hopes of making the 2024 NBA Playoffs.
Only so many years are left in Damian Lillard’s prime, so the Trailblazers need to act fast in order to salvage his tenure in Portland. After yet another disappointing campaign, they would be wise to not rest on their laurels this offseason. There are immediate fixes they can make this summer that will improve their roster, and thus their chances at the playoffs. If all goes well, the Trailblazers could see themselves in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, although that is if all goes well. So, what do they need to fix this offseason?
Here are three major offseason fixes the Portland Trailblazers must make to reach the 2024 NBA Playoffs.
*Stats via ESPN
Bring Back Cam Reddish And Matisse Thybulle
Cam Reddish and Matisse Thybulle were acquired via trades during this season. With greater opportunities for playing time in Portland, both Reddish and Thybulle have demonstrated their value in the Trailblazers rotation.
Reddish was drafted with the 10th overall pick in 2019 to the Atlanta Hawks, and showed flashes of a future elite player. Unfortunately for Reddish, he was traded to the New York Knicks in 2022 and was immediately stalled in his development.
After considerable time on the bench, Reddish arrived in Portland with the chance for a resurgence. A resurgence is what he found, as he has displayed the flashes from his Atlanta days for consistent stretches.
In 27 minutes per game, Reddish is averaging 10.9 points while shooting 45% from the field. With a limited amount of time to acclimate, Reddish has shown he can develop into something greater. At only 23 years old, this is exactly what the Trailblazers hope for.
Meanwhile, Matisse Thybulle also arrived in Portland after a fluctuating start to his career. Drafted to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019, he became a key piece in the 76ers rotation for his defensive prowess by year three. Everything changed this season, as his playing time was halved, along with his output on both ends.
Like Reddish, a trade to the Trailblazers has reinvigorated his career. Ever since arriving in Portland, he is averaging a career-high 27 minutes per game, as well as shooting a career-high 38% from the three-point line. If he can maintain the shooting numbers, he will build a trajectory towards becoming a solid Three-and-D player in the NBA.
Both Reddish and Thybulle are due qualifying offers this offseason, and other teams can make offers themselves. However, the Trailblazers have the right to match any of those offers. For their future playoff hopes, they would be wise to do so.
Trade For Karl-Anthony Towns
The most glaring hole on the Trailblazers roster is at the center position. Once upon a time, Jusuf Nurkic was the future at the position, but injuries and clear regression is going to force Portland to go in another direction. Meanwhile, a core group of Lillard, Anfernee Simons, Reddish, Thybulle, Nassir Little, Shaedon Sharpe, and Jerami Grant round out the other positions. Trading for center Karl-Anthony Towns would immediately put this roster in championship contention.
In terms of the free agency market at the center position, it is extremely light. Nikola Vucevic will be the most decorated center available, and his similarities to Nurkic make him less than appealing. Trailblazers general manager Joe Cronin is going to have deal assets of all kinds and bring in a star like Karl-Anthony Towns.
The Minnesota Timberwolves star center will not come at a cheap price. He already makes an intriguing duo with Anthony Edwards for the Timberwolves, one that the Timberwolves brass might view as championship caliber. However, everything has a price, and in the crowded Western Conference, the Timberwolves might realize that Edwards and Towns will never be enough for a ring.
Lillard and Towns would create arguably the best center-guard duo in the NBA. The Timberwolves dealing Towns will cement a focus on Edwards, allowing the young star to develop at his own pace to his maximum potential. It will not be easy for Cronin to bring in Towns, but if he wants to make the 2024 NBA Playoffs, he will deal for the Timberwolves center.
Draft Remaining Needs
It sounds simple enough: draft well. However, in the case of the Trailblazers, if they are able to strike gold and draft a future all-star to pair with Lillard, they immediately become a playoff team. They have two picks in the 2023 NBA Draft, and each is as important as the other.
Their picks could easily be a part of a package to trade for the aforementioned Towns. If not, they should use their top selection to nab their highest rated center in the draft. With the second pick, they mind as well select their second-highest rated center.
They will have a lottery pick that is yet to be determined where, and then a pick that was originally the New York Knicks that will fall within the 20s. It is paramount to their future playoff hopes to draft rookies that can immediately produce next season. If they still have these picks come the 2023 NBA Draft, there is no room for error.
In general, a very big offseason lies ahead for the Portland Trailblazers. Damian Lillard has been vocal about his loyalty to Rip City, but one man can only withstand so many losing seasons, so many years without a ring. If the Trailblazers can capitalize and fix all three of these holes on their roster, Lillard and company will arrive in 2024 NBA Playoffs.
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