The Portland Trail Blazers and the Philadelphia 76ers are in the same boat heading into the offseason. Talented teams but something is not working. For the 76ers, the blame was placed on the shoulders of Brett Brown. For the Blazers, the blame is placed on everyone but Damion Lillard. Something has to change.
Each team has two stars. The 76ers will ride the wave of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Blazers will go as far as Lillard and CJ McCollum takes them. But in contrast, neither set of stars have led their respective teams anywhere but an offseason of questions. How much longer before both teams are blown up?
The 76ers had a championship-winning formula well before the trade for Jimmy Butler last season. Embiid, Simmons, JJ Redick, Dario Saric, and Robert Covington were great together. All they needed was time. Instead of giving them that, the GM decided to blow it up and bring in a third star in Butler. While that team made the playoffs again, they were stunned by the Toronto Raptors and Butler was given his freedom to join the Miami Heat.
The Blazers have gone through their own face-lift after the departure of LaMarcus Aldridge but during that time, Lillard has emerges as a top 3 PG in the NBA. What has failed them over the last few seasons has been their inability to find the right role players. This year, they supposedly had the right ingredients with Jusuf Nurkic, Carmelo Anthony, and Hassan Whiteside. All that talent and still another quick playoff exit.
So, what’s next for both teams?
The Philadelphia 76ers are in a contact crunch thanks to players like Al Horford and Tobias Harris. Not to mention trying to fend off the media regarding what started out as whispers surrounding a trade of either Embiid or Simmons. Sounds familiar Portland?
McCollum and Lillard have been together six years and have no championship or NBA Finals appearance to showcase to anyone. While dynamic, something is holding this team back from taking the same step that the Denver Nuggets took this season.
Each season, the Blazers and the 76ers have heard their organizations mentioned in possible trade rumors. This offseason will be no different. Now, what may work for both teams is the possibility of doing a deal together.
There is a good chance Brand could flip Embiid for McCollum and Nurkic. This will would work for both parties. The 76ers will get a shooter in McCollum and a good post player in Nurkic. The Blazers will get the offensive enforcer in the paint they need in Embiid.
The 76ers are hell-bent on keeping their core of Simmons and Embiid together but the reality of the situation is that together, they haven’t done anything. The league is steadily improving and if the Blazers and 76ers are not careful, they could get lost in the shuffle of Power Rankings.
Annual playoffs trips are solid and look great on a coaches’ resume but the ultimate goal is to win a championship and neither team is close to that with their current core. Who makes the first move?