Asked on Friday in Tokyo about the Trail Blazers‘ moves in free agency, star point guard Damian Lillard suggested that the team missed out on some of its top targets, as Joe Vardon of The Athletic relays.
“You never know where guys are going to end up and why they go there. You just try to have conversations and convince guys to be a part of our team,” Lillard said. “And obviously, this go around, we weren’t able to go out there and just get some of the guys that we would have liked.
“(So) you go down the list and you go through the guys that are out there that you like who haven’t committed to a team or were a part of your plans in free agency and you get the ones that want to be a part of what you’re doing. And I think that’s what we did.”
The Trail Blazers’ free agent additions include Cody Zeller, Tony Snell, and Ben McLemore. According to Jason Quick of The Athletic, the team also had interest in Nicolas Batum, and made an effort to lure Kelly Oubre to Portland with the taxpayer mid-level exception. Oubre ended up elsewhere even though Damian Lillard made a pitch to him at the end of the regular season.
“It wasn’t anything deep other than ‘Would he be open to it?’ and he said he was,” Lillard told Quick. “I liked Oubre as a complement to other guys I thought we would be able to get. We didn’t get them.”
As Quick outlines, the Blazers’ “real” offseason will begin when Lillard finishes his Olympics run and returns to Portland to evaluate the roster and assess his options. There are three roads the rest of the Blazers’ summer could take, in Quick’s view: Portland convinces Lillard that running it back and being patient is the right approach; the team makes a major trade that changes Lillard’s view of the Blazers’ trajectory; or the All-NBA guard asks to be traded.
Here’s more on the Blazers:
- Quick confirms that the deals Zeller, McLemore, and Snell are signing are all worth the veteran’s minimum. The Blazers still have the taxpayer mid-level exception available, but aren’t aggressively pursuing any players left on the market and will likely hang onto that exception for now, Quick adds.
- The Blazers have 13 players projected for the regular season roster for now. They plan to enter the season with 14, but they’re keeping that 14th spot open for now to maintain flexibility, according to Quick, who notes that the spot may be useful for a trade in which Portland takes back more players than it sends out.
- While CJ McCollum is perhaps the most obvious trade candidate on the Blazers’ roster, it doesn’t sound like he’s being actively shopped, says Quick. Quick isn’t sure whether other teams simply don’t value McCollum like the Blazers do, but says the club won’t move him just to shake up the roster — a deal would have to improve the roster. So far, no opportunities fit that bill.