The Portland Trail Blazers finally made the decision to fire president of basketball operations Neil Olshey on Friday, who had been under investigation for misconduct after allegations of him berating and cursing at employees as well as making inappropriate comments to a female employee.
That investigation meant the Blazers were able to fire Olshey for cause with two years left on his deal, but the timing still seemed odd that the organization allowed him to oversee what was a critical offseason for the team. Damian Lillard had made his frustrations with the Blazers known after their latest first round exit from the playoffs, wanting roster upgrades that Olshey insisted weren’t needed. Instead, Terry Stotts was fired and Olshey hired Chauncey Billups to be the team’s next head coach, believing their defensive woes would be solved by a coaching change rather than a major roster shakeup.
The results through a quarter of the season have proven that belief incorrect, as Portland is the NBA’s worst defensive team. With Olshey now out, it’s fair to wonder if the Blazers will take Lillard’s frustrations and request for roster changes a bit more seriously. According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Shams Charania, Lillard still wants Portland to make a splash move, with a reported desire to play alongside Sixers disgruntled guard Ben Simmons.
Lillard intends to give the Trail Blazers organization time to find its next leader of basketball operations. But beyond the front office component, the face of the franchise still wants significant changes to the roster. Multiple sources have told The Athletic that Lillard would like to play with Philadelphia 76ers three-time All-Star Ben Simmons. The Trail Blazers’ league-worst defense would instantly improve, and sharing a backcourt with a non-shooter could work given Lillard’s high-volume usage.
The Blazers have long been a popular landing spot for fans trying to project a Simmons trade, as CJ McCollum seems like the type of guard that the Sixers could very much use. However, Philly has been insistent that they’d rather trade Simmons for Lillard, rather than sending him to go play with Dame, which has been a non-starter for Portland. The report indicates the Sixers have asked for multiple picks and swaps if McCollum is the centerpiece of a Simmons trade, which the Blazers have rejected.
But with Simmons still not playing and both the Blazers and Sixers treading water around .500, it certainly would make sense for the two sides to pick up the phone and re-engage in talks. The trade that makes the most sense for both sides rarely happens in the NBA, but this has been a popular framework for a long time and at this point it makes sense for both teams to at least consider doing what’s needed to get it done.