Following possible insight into the Los Angeles Lakers’ star targets after landing LeBron James, and some tweets from Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, speculation about to Lillard to L.A. is heating up. With Paul George and Chris Paul staying with their respective teams, LeBron is left without a second co-star — for now. Who could join him? While Kawhi Leonard has been a popular name, Lillard is rising among league writers.
Eric Pincus for Bleacher Report ponders if Lillard will ever request out of Portland:
If the Spurs lower their asking price on Leonard, and if the Lakers are willing to give up Ingram, Los Angeles can open enough cap space by stretching Deng to do a one-for-one deal with San Antonio. If not, perhaps a player like Damian Lillard asks out of Portland.
Pincus even names Lillard a player to watch, the perfect Robin for LeBron in L.A.:
The Lakers need a Robin to James’ Batman if they hope to truly challenge for a spot in the Finals, but they can bide their time. Johnson has stressed his team is on a two-year plan to add stars. He’s already landed the biggest one in the league.
If the Lakers can get Leonard at a reasonable price in a trade or steal away one of the Warriors’ major pieces like Durant or Thompson in free agency next summer, that could catapult Los Angeles to favorite status.
Lillard is a player to keep an eye on. He has three years left on his contract, but the Blazers have struggled to make progress in the West.
Michael Pina of VICE Sports examines the ripple effects LeBron to the Lakers creates. Does it motivate a player to compete for a ring with James?
And even if they don’t get one of those two, the Lakers will find someone very good sooner than later. Maybe Klay Thompson is unhappy and wants to play for the same franchise as his dad, for a familiar head coach like Luke Walton? Maybe Jimmy Butler wants to explore his options as a free agent? Maybe Damian Lillard or Paul George or Joel Embiid demand a trade?
But on the flip side, Pina ponders if LeBron’s move drives a player like Lillard to flee the Western Conference with an L.A. superteam bubbling and the Warriors staying the Warriors:
Of course, the NBA’s wild imbalance may have a reverse effect. What if stars on floundering non-super teams in the Western Conference want to head East, where the path to a title is infinitely less complicated? How will Anthony Davis react to his new existence in purgatory? What about Lillard, or Karl-Anthony Towns? This gauntlet’s treacherousness has no precedent.
It’s worth noting Lillard to L.A. is mostly speculation, and there’s no stated interest from the Blazers to trade their franchise guard; what the Lakers might want and what the Blazers might want could be two different things. But still, the talk is not going away.