As you’ve undoubtedly heard, Shams Charania and Sam Amick at The Athletic reported that Damian Lillard wants to play with Ben Simmons. This seems only more achievable since Ben Simmons liked a post about Lillard wanting to play with him. To put the cherry on top of what can be some very hearsay trade reports, the Blazers did, in fact, turn down a CJ McCollum/Simmons deal before the start of the season. Is a CJ for Simmons more realistic this time around?
The first negotiations broke down when Daryl Morey asked the Blazers to also give up 3 first-round picks as well as 3 first-round draft swaps. But that trade said less about the Darryl Morey and the 76ers’ delusion and more about their interest in a McCollum deal for the growing team distraction of Big Ben. This offer was turned down by Blazers President of Basketball Operations, Neil Olshey, who has now been fired after ten years of service due to an investigation around “concerns and complaints around our workplace environment at the practice facility.” So now, with the drowning Trail Blazers who are 1-10 playing away and have yet to pick up an All-Star talent since drafting CJ in 2013, can finally make a real move with new management on board.
The Portland Trail Blazers have become more rehashed and dry than late-night episodes of M*A*S*H. Surprisingly it still gets a solid audience, but it has never been or never will be in contention for the best-ranked show of the week, month, or year. But this lack of winning potential is anemically accepted due to the comfort of ‘guaranteed results.’ There are a lot of things on television that get fewer views than M*A*S*H, just like there are a lot of NBA teams that win less than small-city Portland. But although they might renovate everything around the team from head-coach to general managers, so as to pretend it has actually changed the product, this roster routinely gets packaged and shipped out each year like an assembly line.
From a contractual standpoint, CJ’s and Lillard’s contracts are the only ones that match Simmons’ since all three are making up to $30-40 million this season. As much as Morey would like to make a deal for 00, the only realistic target is no.3. The Blazers currently sit last in defensive ranking, a common trend of the Lillard/ CJ tenure. This was not solved by trading for Robert Covington and Larry Nance JR, both requiring Portland to send out first-round draft picks. The only card left to play is to trade CJ and see if bringing Simmons in works.
Of course, they could just not make this move, pay Dame D.O.L.L.A.R copious amounts of money, and continue to serve this tasty school cafeteria package of Lillard and C.J to the fans until Lillard retires inevitably dissatisfied or asks out. I’m sure the fans won’t get bored if he keeps saying things like he “doesn’t believe in the ring or bust thing,” like he did just this week.
But Lillard will be 32 by the end of this season and is only 6ft 2in. Players have a good track record of staying healthy at that age and height, right? It’s not like he’s sidelined right now after doctors revealed he had lower Abdominal Tendinopathy, which would explain his short sampled size but significant drop in-game this season.
Yes, Simmons has his flaws, but what is there to lose for the Blazers? We know how a Dame-CJ season ends, and you know what they say the definition of insanity is, right? Simmons’ defense fills Portland’s holes like Lillard’s shooting covers Simmons’ spacing issue. The worst outcome is that they flame out in the first or second round of the Playoffs - basically their ceiling with a Dame & CJ foundation.
The Phoenix Suns were two players off reaching the Finals with Paul and Crowder, so while it seems like Portland’s and more so Lillard’s window had closed - a dysfunctional All-NBA talent situation has now fallen in their laps. If they’re not the first team to exploit it, then they are simply not doing right by their franchise guy. Someone just needs to pick up the call before it’s too late.