The Portland Trail Blazers had a 2021 NBA playoffs campaign to forget as the franchise got knocked out of the postseason in the first round itself. The more concerning part was that it came against an undermanned Denver Nuggets side, and the Trail Blazers will have to improve their roster significantly if they want to keep hold of Damian Lillard.
Portland Trail Blazers’ top 3 assets going into the 2021/22 NBA season
The Portland Trail Blazers took a punt on Norman Powell this offseason, signing him to a sizeable team that will keep him with the franchise until 2026. The future of some of the other Blazers’ players is still up in the air. On that note, let’s take a look at their three biggest assets going into the new season –
#3 – Jusuf Nurkic
Jusuf Nurkic had a down year in the 2020-21 campaign, missing 35 games due to injury and adding a pedestrian statline of 11 points and nine rebounds per game. His defense has always been suspect, and the Portland Trail Blazers would be better off cashing in on him instead of letting him walk away in free agency in 2022.
The Portland Trail Blazers run the risk of increasing their rift with Damian Lillard if they part ways with Nurkic, but that is a gamble they can afford to take if Lillard is inclined to leave this summer. Nurkic is set to make $12 million in the upcoming season, and the Blazers front office can certainly add better pieces than the Bosnian once the cap space is free after his departure.
#2 – Robert Covington
Robert Covington was brought in to improve the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense single-handedly, and it is safe to say that the power forward has been unable to do so. Covington is a great help on defense at this stage of his career, but paying him close to $13 million to do so even if it is coupled with him knocking down 3s at a decent clip, doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Portland Trail Blazers now.
They can use Covington in a trade to get a decent return, considering he is the prototype ‘3&D’ role player. Contenders and even playoff hopefuls will be quite eager to pick him up, which makes Covington a major asset for the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2021 NBA offseason.
#1 – CJ McCollum
CJ McCollum has been an active part of the NBA trade rumors this summer, and has already been linked to teams like Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Prominent rumors suggested that the Portland Trail Blazers would be willing to do a straight swap for Ben Simmons with McCollum going the other way, and it looks extremely likely that he will be on a new team next season.
McCollum’s production dipped dramatically during the 2021 playoff series against the Denver Nuggets, as he managed to put up just 20 points and six rebounds on an underwhelming 43% shooting from the field. Fans and analysts felt that McCollum couldn’t play the role of a secondary star to perfection in that series, as Damian Lillard had to carry the offensive load by himself.
McCollum is a two-guard who is adept at scoring and shooting from deep, and the Portland Trail Blazers could get a strong return for Damian Lillard’s back court partner in the next few months.
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