The offseason has begun, and with it, the pressure to win one for the Gipper – Damian Lillard.
I have always enjoyed this time of year and the promise it holds for better days ahead. The offseason is at least on par for me as the actual season. I will concede, however, my affinity for the offseason very well could be a byproduct of being a lifelong fan of an organization that seemingly is content to celebrate its one and only championship every year going on 40+ years now, but I digress.
Winning a championship as a Portland Trail Blazer, not chasing one by defecting, has long been Dame’s stated goal. But even if he ages like fine wine, all the key players within the organization (Billups, Cronin, & Lillard) seem to understand the time to go for it is now. They can ill afford to waste another year of Dame’s prime, as has arguably been the case the last two seasons.
So, with the Big 3 Era of the NBA seemingly in the rearview mirror, the Blazers no doubt will seek to pair Lillard with a bonafide star. And as bonafides go, you’d be hard-pressed to top All-NBA. Again, the goal is legitimate championship contention, so I don’t think just an All-Star will cut it. All-NBA or bust!
Since the NBA has yet to announce their All-NBA selections for this season, we’ll use last year’s teams as our guide. The 21-22 All-NBA…
- Giannis Antetokounmpo
- Devin Booker
- Luka Doncic
- Nikola Jokic
- Jayson Tatum
- Stephen Curry
- DeMar DeRozan
- Kevin Durant
- Joel Embiid
- Ja Morant
- LeBron James
- Chris Paul
- Pascal Siakam
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Trae Young
If we eliminate the smallish/point guards (cause the Blazers be having trouble with winning at the highest level with their small backcourts), you’re left with Giannis, Booker, Doncic, Jokic, Tatum, DeRozan, Durant, Embiid, LeBron, Siakam, & Towns. And barring them demanding a trade, franchises don’t typically trade their cornerstones or NBA icons (LeBron), nor do they turn around & trade a player they just acquired (here’s looking at you, Durant), which leaves us with DeRozan, Siakam, & possibly Towns. Since I highly doubt the T-Wolves would give up so soon on Towns, we’re just talking about DeRozan & Siakam.
With defense being a bugaboo for the Blazers for several seasons running, it would be hard for me to fathom them pairing Dame with DeRozan. But despite their stated goal of improving the defense, they have failed miserably at this, so maybe, just maybe, they try to just outscore everyone by bringing in an elite scorer like DeRozan. I can’t say it’s worked out all that well for the Bulls, though!
When it all comes down to it then, it would seem Siakam is the guy. The good news on the Siakam front is he managed to improve statistically, albeit incrementally, virtually across the board from his All-NBA season last year to this (22.8 pts, 8.5 reb, 5.3 ast, 1.3 stl, 1.1 3pm & 0.6 blk to 24.2 pts, 7.8 reb, 5.8 ast, 0.9 stl, 1.3 3pm, & 0.5 blk). But more importantly, I think he could be had.
The question then becomes, does he immediately vault the Blazers into championship contention?
At first blush, I would say no, but it’s a bit more nuanced in that it’s dependent on what the Blazers have to give up to get him. As dynamic duos go, there certainly are better ones than Lillard & Siakam (Kawhi Leonard & Paul George, Anthony Davis & LeBron James, Kevin Durant & Devin Booker, just to name a few within just one division, mind you – The Pacific). The point is, the remaining puzzle pieces after a blockbuster trade for Siakam would be even more critical to answering the question of the Blazers being a legitimate championship contender than it would be for other NBA teams with stronger duos.
An important side note of the aforementioned duos, at least one member of each has already won a championship, which in my mind, makes them better than the Blazers’ hypothetical pairing of Dame & Siakam. That being said, I would favor trading for Siakam, but he is not the caliber of player I would mortgage the present or future for if I was the Blazers.
Whether to pull the trigger or not on a trade for Siakam is definitely a topic worth revisiting. Still, before I do, it makes sense to wait until the NBA announces which players have been selected to their All-NBA teams for this recently completed regular season. I’ll use the 2022-23 All-NBA teams as to guide to determine if Siakam will have company as a potential Blazers’ trade target.