Starting off a busy offseason, front offices across the NBA are closely monitoring the situation between the Portland Trail Blazers and Damian Lillard. If the six-time All-Star becomes available, the market is expected to be plentiful. In a piece from The Athletic, beat writers Derek Bodner, Anthony Slater, and Mike Vorkunov took a look at teams capable of putting together competitive packages for Lillard’s services.
Bodner, the beat writer for the Philadelphia 76ers, mentioned Daryl Morey’s aggressiveness when it comes to pursuing disgruntled superstars that hit the trade market. Given both their glaring need for a perimeter complement to Joel Embiid, and the availability of their own multi-time All-Star guard, Philadelphia could be a team to watch. Bodner envisions the 76ers being very aggressive under this circumstance:
“We also know that the organization isn’t against trading Simmons. That was true in January when they pursued Harden, and Simmons becoming a shell of himself in the playoffs certainly hasn’t caused them to change course.
When you add it all up, I think it’s a virtual lock that the Sixers would be aggressive if Lillard does actually hit the market. Very, very aggressive.”
His trade scenario sees the 76ers providing a package of Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey and / or Matisse Thybulle, two first-round picks, and a swap on some other assortment of Draft selections. That, or bringing along a third team to sweeten the deal.
Slater, the beat writer for the Golden State Warriors, sees them aggressively pursuing the “greatest shooting trio” in league history, should Lillard’s status change. His case revolves around the Warriors’ hefty mix of both Draft capital and burgeoning talent.
“Their theoretical offer would be competitive. If the Blazers decided to trade Lillard, a complete rebuild seems like the wisest path and there aren’t many better rebuilding trade packages dangling out there right now than James Wiseman, the seventh and 14th pick in the upcoming draft, plus more future firsts, attached to Andrew Wiggins as salary match filler. The Thunder and other teams may have a more appealing basket of picks, but why would they spend them on a star on the wrong side of 30?”
Slater counterargues that Lillard likely wouldn’t want to co-star in San Francisco, which, for the moment, would put any potential deal on the rocks for now.
Vorkunov, who covers the New York Knicks, floated a deal that would send Lillard to the Big Apple. Like the Warriors, they offer something that few other teams can present in abundance: money.
“Unlike every other team that could trade for him, the Knicks could just take Lillard into their cap space, since they could potentially have some $50 million in room available this offseason. The Blazers get a big trade exception and clear their books all at once of $44 million that will put them in a manageable cap situation again as they begin what might just be a rebuild. It’s not a tangible asset the Knicks can send over to Portland but it something they can use that no other Lillard contender probably can, along with their picks and the players they can deal.”
The proposed offer included R.J. Barrett, Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, a pair of 2021 NBA Draft first-round picks, protected picks in 2023 and 2025, a pick swap somewhere down the line in exchange for Lillard.
Outside of their own teams, the group also suggested the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors as intriguing options, as they would pair Lillard with an All-Star, such as Nikola Jokic, Zion Williamson, or Jayson Tatum. They also offered side commentary, questioning what the Blazers’ intent was, in regards to how competitive they wanted to remain after a potential Lillard deal. You can read the full article at The Athletic (subscription required).