Following the news of Damian Lillard‘s pending contract extension and the trade for Jerami Grant, the Portland Trail Blazers aren’t ready to rebuild yet. Here are some potential Blazers free agent targets for the 2022-23 season.
Blazers free agent targets
The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the worst teams in the league last year. The list of things they were terrible at is hefty; 27th in Offensive Rating, 29th in Defensive Rating, 30th in Net Rating, 29th Assist to Turnover Ratio, 26th in True Shooting Percentage, 27th in Defensive Rebounds, and 30th in +/-.
I know they rested their serviceable players for a better part of the season, but that’s still abysmal. Those stats highlight the weight Damian Lillard was carrying in Portland. Like the majority of Lillard’s career, the Trail Blazers’ offseason plan should revolve around fixing the defense. I loved them drafting Shaedon Sharpe. He’s raw but the type of prospect that would fit perfectly next Dame in the backcourt due to his defensive versatility.
Portland hasn’t utilized much of its draft capital during Lillard’s tenure, so don’t be surprised to hear Blazers trade rumors involving a sign and trade featuring Jusuf Nurkic or Joe Ingles plus draft picks.
Best Blazers targets in free agency
Otto Porter Jr. – Otto Porter consistently ranks as one of the better defenders in the league. On top of that, Porter shot nearly 37% from three on 3.5 attempts per game.
He’s versatile enough to play the three or the four, so you don’t have to worry about his fit with Grant. While his health is a concern, and the Blazers are probably exhausted from the number of injuries they’ve dealt with, he’s worth at least the Mid-Level Exception. Porter Jr is the type of functional wing that has been missing from the Blazers lineup during Dame’s tenure.
Andre Drummond – I might rank Drummond too highly cause I value rebounding. But, even if they keep Nurkic, it’d be worth picking up another center.
Nurkic is good defensively but is injured too often to rely on. Drummond’s lack of spacing will be offset by playing next to Dame, Grant, and Anfernee Simons.
Kevon Looney – Another Golden State Warrior set to become a free agent. Looney would be a catch for the Blazers; his ability to switch out on the perimeter would do wonders for Portland’s lackadaisical defense.
The Warriors aren’t afraid to live in the luxury tax, but re-signing Porter Jr., Gary Payton, and Looney may be a bridge too far. Anyone leaving Golden State’s orbit would fit nicely next to Dame due to his similarities with Steph Curry.
Bruce Brown – Another player I overvalue. Brown’s tenacity and athleticism are assets to any team. He would fit next to Dame seamlessly. Bruce Brown can hold up one through four and isn’t a zero on offense. His scoring is lacking, but his passing and vision are well above average. Simons and Lillard could thrive off-ball next to a player like Bruce Brown.
Donte DiVincenzo – Another buy-low player Portland could target who would supplement tough defense. His shooting was above average last season, but he’s battled injuries for his entire career.
Trail Blazers trade candidates
If those Blazers’ free agent targets aren’t enough, they’ll fire up the trade machine. The Blazers’ offseason grades highly so far with the acquisition of Jerami Grant and drafting of Shaedon Sharpe. However, they need to make another splash if they want to guarantee a playoff trip.
Unfortunately, he’s another player who’s often injured, but that makes him attainable. The allure of Myles Turner is that he shoots 33% from three while playing such a high level of defense.
OG Anunoby – This is most likely a pipedream for Portland. But, if they can sweeten the pot enough with picks around Jusuf Nurkic, they might be able to get the Raptors to budge.
The Raptors have a dire need at center and an abundance of switchable wings. Would Portland be willing to mortgage their future for the present? Of all the Trail Blazers’ potential offseason moves, this one would help the most. OG is a prototypical 3 & D wing; he shoots at 36% and defends one through four.
It’s a cliche, but Dame isn’t getting younger, and the fact that they’re extending him means the Blazers are most likely trying to maximize their window while he’s in Portland.
Blazers free agency rumors
The Trail Blazers offseason plan is clearly to go all-in on their window with Lillard. The signing of Jerami Grant and rumors they were willing to trade the seventh overall pick to the Toronto Raptors prove that. It’s not a terrible strategy, but if they were better at drafting throughout Dame’s career, they might have done a better job augmenting his prime. Remember what the Warriors just did through the draft next time a team starts trading away draft picks to accommodate a 27-year-old superstar. It’s a myth that timelines have to match.
Dame Time is real; there’s no denying that Lillard is one of the best scorers in the league. Maybe even in history, especially during clutch situations. Dame has no fear. However, Portland needs lots of improvements up and down the roster. Unfortunately, the roster can’t be totally fixed with the Blazers’ current free agent targets. But, if the new front office regime nails their signings around the margins and can juice the defense, they’ll be a dangerous team come the playoffs. More so if they swing big on the trade market, even if it comes at the sacrifice of their future.
Players like Damian Lillard are once in a generation. While I’m usually against mortgaging the future, he’s the kind of talent you risk doing it for at this point of his career.