The Portland Trail Blazers exited last year's Orlando bubble ever-bullish on their trio of Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. Gary Trent Jr.'s strong playoff run also previewed a player who could perhaps provide the Blazers' long-missing piece on the perimeter.
To keep pace in a loaded Western Conference, Portland's top priority this past offseason became adding more defensive wing depth. Building the ideal roster around the already strong core is especially important for the Blazers as the clock starts to tick louder on Lillard's prime.
President Neil Oshley even lobbied Lillard to provide a list of potential complementary stars, league sources told Bleacher Report. Lillard spent considerable time assessing rosters across the league. It is known that Aaron Gordon was one of the considered additions, though it appears Portland chose to pursue Robert Covington at the time instead.
The Blazers' task is strikingly similar to the Warriors optimizing these final years of Stephen Curry's union with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, as both Curry and Lillard now stand north of 30 years old. Green, sources said, is also the premier malleable defender Portland has long dreamed of supporting its Lillard-McCollum tandem.
To be clear, that does not mean Portland needs to supplement Lillard with another star to keep him. By all accounts, the Blazers centerpiece is perhaps the most loyal of NBA stars, hailed around the league as a rare breed of culture setter. He has long rebuffed recruiting attempts from rivals—and there have been plenty. In this league, LeBron James drafting Lillard to three straight All-Star squads is not coincidence.
Lillard's unwavering allegiance has allowed the Blazers to confidently, and uncharacteristically, splurge for upgrades on the wing, first dealing two first-round picks for Robert Covington and then recently swapping Trent for Norman Powell before the trade deadline. The Blazers hope those additions, mixed with Lillard's locker room presence, can all blend along the point guard's timeline.
Now, will it all be worth the front office gambling more chips than they've typically been willing to trade?