Trade Destinations for Disgruntled Superstar Damian Lillardby John Devereaux July 18, 2021 1 comment
Portland Trail Blazers superstar guard Damian Lillard will be requesting a trade in the coming days. Lillard has spent the last nine seasons with the team that drafted him, and the team had not shown great improvement from year to year. The team has been stuck as a Western Conference playoff squad but has very little success past the first round.
Lillard was speculated for the past two seasons to request a trade away from Portland. However, the superstar wanted to stay with the team for the remainder of his career. Media outlets always spouted that Lillard not only should look for a new team but deserves to leave the franchise. The guard has given everything to the organization and the team just could not build around him. This request should not come as a surprise, and the superstar is much deserving of being located to a new team.
Lillard is a superstar talent and finished sixth in the MVP race this past season. The guard could have finished higher if the team showed more success. In the 2021 NBA season, the disgruntled guard averaged 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game. Since joining the league in the 2012 season, he has never averaged under 20 points per game outside of his rookie season. Lillard has been consistent, and dominant since joining the league. The Portland Trail Blazers during the Lillard era did little to surround him.
This is where the frustration comes to fruition. Lillard is a clear No. 1 option, a player who you can trust with the ball all throughout the game. The team did not once give him a valuable second option. CJ McCollum is a great player, but not a player that can be relied on as the second option. McCollum averaged 23.1 points per game this season, but will not take over games often. The second option for a team is a player who can produce Lillard-type numbers in replacement. McCollum is more of a third option. The team during the Lillard era also got rid of LaMarcus Aldridge, because they thought his age wouldn’t be in comparison to Lillard’s timetable. Lillard came into the league an NBA star, and Aldridge would have been a great third option. Even if Aldridge was aging he was still producing all-star type numbers when they wouldn’t re-sign him.
Portland dropped the ball on Aldridge. Portland’s biggest problem that they solved too late was their lack of a bench. For the first eight years of Lillard’s career, the team had a dysfunctional and unproductive bench. Not until this recent year, where the bench finally came together. Portland in the past year and a half added Carmelo Anthony, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and Enes Kanter. These players were all productive off the bench and could step into the starting lineup. However, with no other star and the late arrival of the bench Lillard’s mind must have already been set.
There are a few teams that could catch Lillard’s eye out of the 25 teams that would make offers to the Trail Blazers. Five teams have the assets and the likability that would garner interest for both Lillard and Portland.
Philadelphia is looking for a point guard, a player that can shoot the ball consistently. Philly has a star that could be enticing to play with Joel Embiid. Lillard has never had a dominant star alongside him, and playing with a young star in Embiid would attract the superstar guard. Adding Lillard would give the pure shooting guard that Philly has been missing for years. Lillard would also go into an organization that will make big trades to help the team win. As Philadelphia and Daryl Morey are known to make big trades to heighten the team.
Philadelphia would have to give up a lot in this trade to make it happen. The biggest piece of the trade would be Ben Simmons. Although Simmons had a terrible playoff run this past season, his value as a player is still relatively high. Philly will also need to add in Tyrese Maxey, who had a fantastic rookie season with the team. These two players will be the catalyst of a rebuild in Portland. Those two players would still not be enough to separate Lillard from Portland, as Morey will have to add Isaiah Joe and two first-round picks.
This might seem like a lot, but Lillard is in his prime for three more years theoretically. Lillard was also a top-six MVP candidate and could make the leap to win the award if on a top-seeded team. Portland in return would give up Lillard, which would make Philadelphia a contender for the finals in the coming seasons.
Although Boston had a disappointing season the team is still built to be a contender in the playoffs. The team recently traded Kemba Walker and is looking for a point guard. The Celtics have Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, two players who will be top 20 next season. Adding Lillard to this team would make the Celtics the top team in the league. They could contend against the Brooklyn Nets big three of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics would have to give up a lot of players in this trade. Brown could be a piece to acquire the superstar, but it would be the unlikely new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens lets go of the young talent. Instead, the trade will be built around Marcus Smart. Boston would ship Smart, Robert Williams, Aaron Nesmith, and Tristan Thompson along with three first-round picks. In return, the team will receive Lillard and a future pick.
This would give Portland cap space, valuable pieces that could be used for a rebuild or for other trade adventures. The biggest catch from this trade would be the three first-round picks. The picks would have to be every other year, making two of the three picks valuable in the long run.
Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James would want another star alongside him after an early exit in the playoffs this season. The Lakers have a tough situation, as their cap space is very limited and the team would have to really adjust their roster to acquire the superstar guard. With that, Lebron has made impossible trades possible. The team will have to move money around, releasing players or trading players for nothing.
It is clear that Dennis Schroder will decline his player option, which will free up 16 million in cap space. The team would then have to hope that Montrezl Harrell also declines his nine million player option. If both players leave in the offseason the team will have enough cap space to acquire Lillard. Los Angeles would have to give up Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Talen Horten-Tucker. Add four first-round picks to the deal, and the Lakers have a convincing offer.
It might seem like a lot to give up, but Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope do not have high trade value. The team would have to give up everything they have if they want a real chance to acquire Lillard. This trade would put the Lakers as the best-assembled big three in the league’s history. This would also give Portland a plethora of draft capital along with young talent and two solid starters.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers could go in two different directions with this trade. They could trade Paul George for Lillard, with some picks attached. Although it would make more sense for Los Angeles to trade their rotational pieces and draft capital for the superstar. What’s important about the Clippers acquiring Lillard, is to entice Kawhi Leonard to accept his player options. If the team were to acquire Lillard, it would give Leonard a more attractive reason to stay in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles would have to give Serge Ibaka if he accepts his player option, Luke Kennard, Marcus Morris, and Ivica Zubac in the deal. Attach two or three first-round picks, and the Portland Trail Blazers will have a trade offer attractive enough to accept. Lillard would make the Clippers lock for the NBA Finals. Having two elite defenders in George and Leonard that can also score 25 points a game will make Lillard an unstoppable force, as he would not have to worry about defense in the slightest.
Miami is always searching for another star. The team has been rumored to be in every trade for a player. The Heat need a point guard as Goran Dragic is aging, and their window to a championship is slowly closing. Miami already has Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler, two defensive studs who need help offensively. Lillard would be a great fit in Miami, to provide all the scoring for the team.
Miami has the best assets and draft capital out of these five teams. The team would build a trade around Tyler Herro, which would also include Victor Oladipo and multiple first-round picks. The Trail Blazers would receive a young talent in Herro, and a serviceable guard in Oladipo. Miami could also wait and see if Andre Iguodala, Goran Dragic, and Trevor Ariza accept their player options. If these players accept their options, they could then be used in replacement of Oladipo in the trade. Portland would receive Herro and a combination of two of these four players in Dragic, Oladipo, Ariza, and Iguodala.
As long as two or three first-round picks are attached to the trade Portland could find themselves in a favorable position. As Miami is always a target for superstars to play in. The Heat would have more leverage than all the other organizations.
Follow John Devereaux on Twitter @NBADevereaux
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images