The Portland Trail Blazers as a team and organization have had a very rough 2021-22 season already. They are currently sitting at 11-14, which would qualify them for the final play-in slot in the West. Offensively, they’re still an elite squad, but they clearly need to make changes to the roster to improve their defense if they’re going to finish above the play-in.
Six months ago, HoopsHype weighed whether the Blazers were better off continuing trying to compete with their core versus blowing it up and rebuilding. Improving their defense, particularly on the bench, was a major priority after finishing last season 29th in defensive rating. Their biggest addition was trading for Larry Nance Jr., as well as the addition by subtraction of Carmelo Anthony and Enes Freedom. Despite that, they currently rank dead last in defense, largely thanks to being -100 in their last six games in which Damian Lillard was either playing hurt or unavailable.
Organizationally, the Blazers are in upheaval as they’ve fired long-time general manager Neil Olshey after a month-long investigation concluding that he violated their code of conduct. The noise around Lillard’s future will likely persist amid everything going on with the Blazers this season thus far. While it is fair to question his future in Portland, it seems more likely that the Blazers will first shift pieces around him this season instead of moving him.
Any significant move would likely require trading CJ McCollum, both for providing value and salary matching. With Olshey gone, it’s possible the new front office considers trading McCollum in an effort to significantly improve their defense. Such a move may be needed not only to try to save their season, but also to keep Lillard bought-in for the long term.
Here are some potential targets Portland can pursue to improve their defense in exchange for McCollum.