After the Portland Trail Blazers got blew out of the water by the New Orleans Pelicans in a 4-0 Western Conference first round sweep, many are speculating if it is time to break up the back court of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. But does that mean the Los Angeles Clippers should inquire about a potential trade?
What is the price?
Over the next three years, the Blazers will owe Lillard and McColloum a combined $57 million. They are already over the 2018 salary cap due to current roster commitments and have lost 10 consecutive playoff games.
Lillard and McColloum spearhead the Blazers offense without much scoring help. They were the main reason the Blazers went 49-33 and finished third in the West. Both players combined to accounted for 54 percent of the Blazers scoring in the regular season. They each ranked in the top-20 in scoring. Lillard ranked fourth in points per game at 26.9 and McCollum tied for 18th at 21.4 points per game.
The Blazers do have a formidable center in Jusuf Nurkic who ranked third on the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and first in rebounds (nine per game). He is a restricted free agent and will provide a big market. Besides their back court and Nurkic, the Blazers are not a team filled with talent.
Between Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard, they make up for $39 million of the Blazers salary cap in 2018-19. The Blazers may look to unload at least one of those contracts and the Clippers should look into taking on Turner, Harkless or Leonard contract if it means they are able to land Lillard or McCollum.
Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey reportedly made it clear the team will build around Lillard after LaMarcus Aldridge left the team in 2015. Lillard is thought of as the better guard of the two. Having two score-first guards may not be best for the Blazers long term.
The best option available
McCollum, 26, is still under contract until the 2020-21 season after he signed his four-year, $106 million extension in 2016. He has yet to make an All-Star team, but McCollum is one of the best shooting guards in the NBA. With possibly more space to operate as a leading guard, he has potential to help a team like the Clippers to become a contender in the Western Conference once again.
The Clippers have the luxury of having two lottery picks in the upcoming draft. It would not be wise for the Clippers to give up both of their first round picks for McCollum, but one of their selections may entice the Blazers in a possible trade.