Charles Barkley: Damian Lillard must be traded by Portland and Trail Blazers have to fully launch into rebuild | NBA News

Given how active the Portland Trail Blazers it was a big surprise to many that franchise superstar Damian Lillard was not also on the move.

Lillard is currently hurt but is a player capable of enhancing any offense with his skillset so there would have been chances to make a deal happen – and given that the team has pivoted, under interim GM Joe Cronin, into what looks like rebuild mode, it’s a huge surprise that the former No 1 pick has stuck around.

His long-time backcourt companion CJ McCollum was traded away along with Norman Powell and Robert Covington among others, with the idea of giving the team far more cap flexibility and saving them from the luxury tax.

Explaining the trades, Cronin said: “It became evident to us that the roster had plateaued. It was a team that was built to fit a specific coaching style and a style of play that we didn’t feel was conducive to the way Chauncey [head coach Billups] and myself wanted to play.

“We were capped out, we were a team that would have cost, would have been in the luxury tax by $15m next season, with not many ways to improve.”

It still begs the question: why not try and shift Dame as well for a slew of picks and assets?

The player himself has stayed loyal to Portland and has said various times he wants to finish his career in Rip City and it appears the franchise is also remaining loyal to him.

The bigger-picture argument for keeping him is that his experience and leadership could hopefully rub off on young player Anfernee Simons, who with his big scoring bursts, seems the heir apparent to McCollum and maybe even Lillard himself already.

Inside The NBA analysts Charles Barkley, though, does not believe the Trail Blazers are playing with enough discipline and believes the franchise is hedging its bets by keeping Lillard on the books, rather than fully pivoting and changing course is a grave error.

Barkley watched the team lost 132-95 at home to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night and he is adamant the franchise need to make the tough decision.

“They’ve got to get rid of Dame first,” said Barkley. “That’s the biggest piece to go but I hated watching them play [during] that first half.

“They’re just playing basketball. Whoever gets it, shoots it! The Warriors have got better players at each position, better shooters at each position – and they’re come out and trying to run with the Warriors! I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me right now?’

“I hated watching that. We don’t know who can play. When you play on bad teams, a lot of these guys are getting all these empty calories but Portland’s got to go ahead and trade Dame, start the rebuild.”

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Highlights of the Golden State Warriors’ trip to the Portland Trail Blazers in Week 19 of the NBA

Barkley’s concern is youngsters such as Simons are not benefitting from freewheeling in a losing culture and reckons it makes no sense financially for the Blazers to hang on to Lillard, whom they drafted with the first pick in 2011.

“I don’t want young Simons and those other guys developing bad habits – and right now they’re developing bad habits,” Barkley said.

“[The Blazers] are no good and Dame is on the backside of his career. Dame is going to make $50m for the next two years and he wants another contract and he’s going to be like 36 years old and he’s going to be making like $55m and they’re not going to win.

“Dame is a terrific, great player [but] you’ve got to start the rebuild now. You got rid of CJ, (Jusuf) Nurkic has got to go too because by the time these other guys are any good, everybody will be past their prime. You can’t hold on to ageing superstars when they’re making $50m a year.”

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