For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Portland Trail Blazers have been eliminated in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
In falling to the Denver Nuggets in six games, the Trail Blazers came up well short of their goal and face multiple tough decisions this upcoming offseason as a team that is on the fringe of contending for a title.
The franchise and Terry Stotts, their head coach of the last nine seasons, have already mutually agreed to part ways, marking the first of many moves to come.
What's next for Portland?
Upcoming free agents
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are both under contract for several more seasons, but the Blazers could lose some of their depth in the offseason.
It begins with Norman Powell, who the Blazers acquired at this season's trade deadline. He has a $11.6 million player option in his contract for next season that he is expected to decline to test unrestricted free agency.
Powell played well in his little time with the Blazers. In 27 regular season games, he averaged 17.0 points on .443/.361/.880 shooting splits. In five playoff games, he was Portland's third-leading scorer with 17.0 points on .500/.385/.889 shooting splits.
Derrick Jones Jr. also has a player option in his contract for the 2021-22 season, his worth $9.7 million. Enes Kanter, Carmelo Anthony, Harry Giles and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, meanwhile, are each in the final years of their contracts and will be unrestricted free agents at the season's end, while Zach Collins and Keljin Blevins will be restricted free agents.
|Unrestricted Free Agent(s)||Restricted Free Agent(s)||Player Option(s)|
|Enes Kanter||Zach Collins||Norman Powell|
|Carmelo Anthony||Keljin Blevins||Derrick Jones Jr.|
According to RealGM's Keith Smith, the maximum amount of cap space Portland can create this offseason is $9.1 million.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
The 2021 NBA Draft
On the surface, it appears as though the Trail Blazers had tough luck when the NBA broke all ties for the 2021 NBA Draft order. Losing the tiebreaker to both the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, Portland would have selected 23rd overall.
However, by way of the trade that sent Robert Covington to the Blazers back in November of 2020, Portland will convey its 2021 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets, so it's the Rockets that had the bad luck in falling two spots further than anticipated.
With no incoming picks for this year's draft, the Blazers will not have a first-round selection.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
With what's facing the Trail Blazers, it's impossible to nail down just one burning question ahead of a potentially transformative offseason, but it's fair to start at the top…
Will Portland move on from the Dame and CJ duo?
After a second consecutive first-round exit, it's impossible to wonder whether or not this backcourt duo reached its peak with a Western Conference Finals appearance in 2019. While Lillard is clearly a top-10 player in the league, McCollum's defensive struggles and injury issues won't just go away as he is set to turn 30 ahead of next season.
Given McCollum's limitations, could Portland get a good return in a potential trade?
Lillard unintentionally caused a commotion by using Nipsey Hussle lyrics as an Instagram caption that is now being looked at as a "cryptic" message and while his loyalty to the franchise has never wavered, the two parties could see an imminent end and mutually agree to part ways for the betterment of both parties.
Who will be the next head coach?
Portland and long-time head coach Terry Stotts mutually agreed to part ways after he served nine years at the helm, so what's next?
Lillard has reportedly expressed interest in being coached by Hall of Famer and fellow Oakland native Jason Kidd, but Chauncey Billups is also considered to be a candidate. Don't be surprised if former assistant David Vanterpool, who Lillard and McCollum have vouched for in the past, earns consideration.
To keep its superstar happy, Portland must get its head coaching hire correctly.
And Norman Powell?
Portland motioned to acquire Powell at the trade deadline in a move that added a scoring punch and championship experience.
The goal was a much deeper playoff run than what transpired.
Powell, who as mentioned above, has an $11.6 million player option for the 2021-22 season. The 28-year-old is coming off of a season in which he averaged 18.6 points on .477/.411/.871 shooting splits over 69 games with the Toronto Raptors and Blazers, so he's set for a nice payday this offseason.
Will it come from Portland? Will Powell decide to move on? It's yet another big question that in many ways, is aligned with the direction of the Lillard-McCollum backcourt.
- Gilbert McGregor (@GMcGregor21)
One key stat
In Portland's first-round series with Denver, Lillard scored a total of 16 points in the clutch on 6-for-10 (60.0 percent) shooting from the field and 4-for-6 (66.7 percent) from 3-point range. Everyone else on the Blazers combined to score 12 points on 4-for-17 (23.5 percent) shooting with the game in the balance.
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