Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are looking to become a contender, with the latter viewing the signing of 2023 NBA draft No. 3 Scoot Henderson as a major improvement. But is it wise for Portland to trade Lillard and rebuild with Henderson rather than retool Lillard?
On Friday’s The Herd, host Colin Cowherd argued that Portland’s roster build was too wing-heavy and it was time to move away from Lillard.
Damian Lillard won’t rush his decision after the Trail Blazers drafted Scoot Henderson
“Four of the most talented Blazers are guards: Scoot Henderson, maybe the most talented, Dame, Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe, and they have a solid wing.” [if he’s re-signed], Jerami Grant. “They’re essentially becoming the Warriors now without any of the trophies,” Cowherd said.
“Steph and Klay, I understand the loyalty to Klay. You got the bag four times, you got the rings. The Blazers had Dame and CJ McCollum, and they didn’t give you trophies. They got you admiration, people liked them…” Eleven years, four wins in a row. break them They never did… Too many guards, what do you get for that? break them send one away Scoot Henderson is the future.”
Lillard has had the most productive season of his NBA career. He averaged 32.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, career-highest while shooting 46.3/37.1/91.4. Lillard had a 60-point game against the Utah Jazz and a 71-point game against the Houston Rockets.
Over the course of his 11-year NBA career, Lillard has received seven All-NBA honors and seven All-Star Game roster nominations. He will be 33 years old in the 2023-24 NBA season and has a contract through the 2026-27 season.
The Trail Blazers went 33-49 last season, ranking 13th in the Western Conference. They missed the playoffs for the second straight year and haven’t won a playoff series since 2019. Since Lillard’s rookie season (2012-13), Portland has won just four playoff series.
Henderson has had an impressive season with the NBA G League Ignite. The 5’2″ Henderson averaged 16.5 points, 6.8 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 42.9/27.5/76.4 in 19 games. He’s the Trail Blazers’ top draft pick since 2007, when they picked Ohio State big man Greg Oden as their #1 pick.
The Trail Blazers also drafted Iowa forward Kris Murray — who received All-Big Ten First Team honors last season — 23rd and winger Rayan Rupert 43rd in the 2023 draft.
As for the rest of Portland’s roster, Simons averaged 21.1 points per game last season, the highest of his career. Sharpe — a former five-star draft pick who was drafted No. 7 by the Trail Blazers in the 2022 NBA draft — averaged 9.9 points per game in his rookie season and appeared in 80 contests (15 starts).
Of all Portland’s young talents, Cowherd sees Henderson as Portland’s future.
“Dame is a great player but after about four Scoot training sessions when he was young he’ll be able to play 75 games, he’ll be a willing defender, you’ll look around and say, ‘We’ve got to get Scoot some players.’ ,’” Cowherd said. “And Scoot won’t win a title next year, but at least it’s a solid direction and everyone understands it. Keeping these guys together, what are your ways? You have two ways. I don’t think any of them bring you closer to a title. I think both might get you into the final playoffs at best.
“All those guards in the Greater West, take a step. Your future clearly lies with Scoot Henderson. No one denies that. Her near future could be checkers. How about you just move him? [Lillard] and get pieces around Scoot?
“Restart, 11 years, four playoff wins. It’s not that difficult emotionally. It would be different if you had rings and trophies. You’re never really close.”
Get more from the National Basketball Association Follow your favorites for updates on games, news and more