It’s still Dame Time in Portland, but rumors of the All-Star goalie’s displeasure have other teams testing the waters.
Damian Lillard, by all accounts (and his own words) doesn’t seem to be going anywhere this summer. That won’t stop thirsty teams from trying to trade for the superstar playmaker. The Knicks, Heat and 76ers are all interested in Lillard’s services, according to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, with the Rockets and Kings also being two teams on Lillard.
Trade for the 31-year-old is going to take many. As, a lot a lot. Lillard owes $ 176,265,152 over the next four years, about $ 25 million more than the budget for “Space Jam: A New Legacy”. (Lillard is going to be a much better ROI, however.)
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However, not all adjustments are created equal: Lillard works better with some teams and matches better than others.
If – that’s a big if – Lillard is actually being treated this offseason, here’s how Lillard’s best fits work:
Damian Lillard the best trade
Houston fell apart completely after the James Harden trade this year, finishing last in the Western Conference, and with John Wall as an expensive point guard on the team already, it’s hard to see exactly how a trade would go without trading Wall. against Lillard, or Wall out expedition elsewhere.
That said, Houston is full of first-round picks for the foreseeable future, including the second overall pick of 2021, and has attractive young players and proven vets who could help facilitate a deal.
Almost every trade between Houston and Portland should probably include Wall, unless you bankrupt the team of his first-round picks completely. The Blazers probably wouldn’t mind the idea, but it would also take one (or more) of the young Houston players to close the deal. The question, however: Would Lillard want to establish a foothold in the middle of a rebuilding cycle?
Lillard is championship hungry and that’s part of his dissatisfaction with Portland at the moment, so going from a team just steps away from the competition to a team that finished with 17 wins in a busy conference isn’t not the most desirable landing point for him.
The Kings are a bit better off organizationally than the Rockets right now, but one of the team’s best young stars plays the same position as Lillard – and another emerging star as well.
Swap rumors surrounding De’Aaron Fox swirled earlier in the season, but Sacramento doesn’t seem to want to trade him for anyone. It’s just.
The Kings are unlikely to part ways with Tyrese Haliburton after a promising rookie season, but he would strike an intriguing deal with Portland. Even then, do the Kings have enough to really compete in the Western Conference? Not yet, at least.
The Knicks and not having a quality point guard: name a more iconic duo.
The Knicks have just had a wholly surprising 2020-21 season, reaching the playoffs despite a devoid of talent roster. The concept of swapping a star with Julius Randle makes sense, but at what cost? Even after a good regular season, the Knicks still have a lot of work to do on the roster, so ruining their future (and some of their present) makes the road to discord even more difficult.
Teams have built more rosters with fewer assets, and reigning Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau did magic with the roster last year. The Knicks, however, are more than a Lillard away from the competition.
Is Lillard improving the Knicks immediately? Depending on the cost, most likely. Will trading for Lillard result in long-term, sustainable success? Not really. The Knicks are still a year away from this conversation.
While Miami was more recently tied to another Blazers play – CJ McCollum – instead of Lillard, the Heat may opt out of some contracts and still have space to cancel Lillard’s contract in the future. The reunification of Lillard, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo would be fun and potentially just enough to challenge the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat have some assets they could part with to land Lillard, but they should get a little creative: they’re without their 2021 first-round pick (thanks to Goran Dragic’s trade), and the Trail Blazers would be looking for lots of early rounds and also choose trades in exchange for Lillard. They also have a few options of players on the squad (Andre Iguodala, Goran Dragic) and should pick those options to facilitate a trade and make the money work.
It’s certainly doable, although Miami has a little less versatility in a potential trade than the others on the list. Miami, Erik Spoelstra, and a decent supporting cast could push Lillard to take her talents to South Beach.
Any trade involving Lillard and the 76ers will likely send Ben Simmons west – and that’s fine for Philadelphia.
More than anything else, the 76ers needed a player with a true killer mentality to help close games during the playoffs. Simmons doesn’t seem like that guy – his reluctance to shoot late in games doomed Philly in the playoffs, and Joel Embiid can’t be the only dude on the list to be the de facto closest to the team.
Lillard would give the 76ers that extra closure punch which they sorely missed, and they also have assets to trade, including Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Paul Reed. They are also limited by the first players they can deal (thanks, Al Horford trade), but Philly could be that formidable contender who is the perfect storm for Lillard.