The Portland Trail Blazers' season is done and change is coming. Last night, the organization parted ways with Terry Stotts, who had been at the helm for the last nine years and presided over a series of good teams but never managed to take that next step to greatness.
It is very likely not the only big change coming for this team. The Blazers cannot compete for championships as currently constructed. They're a great offensive team but an awful defensive team and their first-round series loss to the Nuggets exposed how weak Damian Lillard's supporting cast can be on the wrong nights. The roster doesn't need to be blown up, necessarily, but it needs a serious overhaul.
The biggest possible move Portland can make is moving C.J. McCollum, and it makes sense, too. McCollum is a good 20 point-per-game scorer who can usually pick up the offensive slack when Lillard is off. But he can't defend worth a lick and is the most attractive trade piece on the roster to help build a better squad around Lillard's scoring. The Blazers will almost certainly gauge the trade market for McCollum. It won't be a piece of cake to move his three-year, $100 million contract that kicks in this season, but it's definitely doable.
With that in mind, here are four possible trade partners for McCollum's services.
New York Knicks
This would be more of a cap dump than anything for Portland. The Knicks have enough cap space this summer to absorb McCollum's contract without needing to send back $33 million in salary. McCollum gives the Knicks another go-to scoring option to help take the load off Randle's shoulders and his defense won't be nearly as big of an issue in a Tom Thibodeau-designed scheme. It's not quite the superstar acquisition New York is undoubtedly hoping to use their cap space for, but having a bucket-getter like McCollum elevates the team's ceiling and sets them up to be good for the next few years. Portland can use the cap space to improve the roster as they see fit.
The Heat, unlike New York, do not have the cap space to absorb McCollum's deal outright. But they could pull off a sign-and-trade with Duncan Robinson to get the Blazers guard. Why would they do that? Even with Robinson's shooting, they don't have a perimeter creator like McCollum on the roster. Jimmy Butler is obviously a great scorer but his range limitations reared its ugly head in the playoffs this year and that's why the Heat were the only team to get swept in the first round this year. McCollum and Butler balance each other's strengths and weaknesses perfectly. Portland, meanwhile, wouldn't gain any cap flexibility but they would replace McCollum with a legit deadeye shooter that Lillard can leverage to make defenses pay when they sell out to stop him. A big move for both sides, but one that makes sense upon consideration.
New Orleans Pelicans
Here's a scenario that makes sense for both sides. Whatever the Pelicans did this year, it wasn't enough. Every move for the next four to six years needs to be a win-now move to reinforce to Zion Williamson that they are serious about competing. Shaking it up by trading for an established player like McCollum would be very much in that category. McCollum next to Brandon Ingram with Williamson lurking is an elite offense. although it does not address the defensive problems that plagued the team this year. But Steven Adams did not help very much in that regard, either, and his contract matches perfectly with McCollum's as a 1-to-1 trade. Adams is a perfect pick-and-roll partner for Lillard, an improved version of Jusuf Nurkic (who is a free agent this summer). Portland gets a defensive-minded center to start rebuilding the defense and the Pelicans get another perimeter scorer while opening up more minutes for Williamson to play at the five.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have several veterans who will be on expiring contracts next season. They need a revitalized roster after just missing the playoffs for the second year in a row in 2021. McCollum's sweet shooting stroke would finally give Gregg Popovich a legitimate threat from deep that can also be a featured part of the offense. The Blazers would get out of the next three years of McCollum's contract and landing DeMar DeRozan or Rudy Gay in this theoretical transaction would overall be a win because the contract would be off the books next summer and Lillard needs more big wings around him to win games. It would require San Antonio to buy into the idea that McCollum is good enough to be a No. 1 option for the next few years while they remain competitive, but if they can see the vision, a deal makes sense.