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Will both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum last the season with the Portland Trail Blazers?
That seems to the question entering every season, and this year it’s more of the same.
The latest examination of the Blazers’ standout backcourt comes from Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who writes that there are “whispers in league circles” that the Blazers should break up the Lillard-McCollum combo.
Right now, though, there is no indication they will.
“To make a leap, a breakup could be necessary, and could yield a significant return considering Lillard and McCollum aren’t free agents until 2021,” O’Connor wrote. “Lillard remains the face of the Blazers, so McCollum should be the player more likely to be moved. But the Blazers would also need to consider which player is more likely to stick around once they both hit free agency in 2021.”
O’Connor went on to write that no one really has a feel for what Lillard and McCollum are thinking about the future.
“But we do know that Lillard, on multiple occasions, has made comments that suggest he has a wandering eye,” O’Connor wrote.
The Blazers finished an underrated third in the Western Conference — which was actually only underrated for the regular season. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by Anthony Davis and the sixth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.
While they have the benefit of familiarity, with all the key players back under coach Terry Stotts, they are lacking that third big name everyone needs in today’s NBA.
There has been talk they could make a run at Davis, but it’s hard to see where they could come up with the assets. Unless, of course, one of those assets was Lillard or McCollum. And giving up either one might defeat the purpose and may not even work.
Now, the Blazers are far from experiencing a conundrum. But it’s hard to know if they have reached their ceiling with the duo of Lillard and McCollum. With both under contract for a while longer, there’s no rush to ship one out of town. No one is beating the Golden State Warriors for the time being, anyway.
But Portland has a passionate fan base, and while patient, wants to see the Blazers progress, take that next step. When you play for the Blazers, the pressure is always on.
So that makes this year’s Blazers, and what becomes of Lillard and McCollum, one of this season’s storylines on which to keep a close watch.