After another early playoff exit, speculation about possible shakeups to the Portland Trail Blazers has begun. One popular strategy is for the team to split up stars CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, although the latter doesn't think it's necessary.
"I don’t agree with it," Lillard said of potentially moving one player, per Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest. "I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions. It’s a great organization. I think everyone has done a great job. Coach [Terry] Stotts has done a great job since Day 1. We’ve been in the playoffs five years straight."
Despite his positive attitude, the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference was swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the postseason.
The Blazers were also swept in the first round last year, losing 10 straight games overall in the playoffs. In Lillard's six seasons with the team, the squad has reached the postseason five times but only won two total series.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported the organization could fire head coach Terry Stotts as a result of the playoff failures. However, an alternative option is to trade one of the team's two most productive players.
Lillard earned his third career All-Star appearance this season while averaging 26.9 points per game, putting him in the conversation for the league's MVP award. McCollum was nearly as effective, averaging 21.4 ppg. The problem was a lack of balance on the roster, with only one other player (Jusuf Nurkic) averaging double figures.
Portland needs more help in the frontcourt and depth overall, but with Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard all under large contracts through 2019-20, there won't be many options in free agency.
Trading one of the star guards for a large haul might be the only way to turn things around in the immediate future.
As Lillard indicated, though, the team has been successful and shouldn't necessarily blow everything up after a 49-33 season. Still, the lack of wins in the postseason will continue to haunt this core until something changes.