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O’Connor: Five Teams Have Emerged as ‘Aggressive’ Suitors for Lillard

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The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor detailed the burgeoning trade market for Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.

Sacramento Kings v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Damian Lillard refuted the claim that he has asked the Trail Blazers for a trade last week, but that has not prevented speculation regarding his availability or happiness in Portland. On Tuesday, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor revealed that five teams have risen to the top of the pack in the hunt for Lillard’s services.

Before getting to the list of potential suitors, O’Connor explained that most league executives do not expect Lillard to be moved this offseason. After that, he presented five teams that are rumored to be actively pursuing the Blazers’ star guard.

Few team executives expect a Dame deal to happen this offseason. But multiple front-office sources say the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have recently been the most aggressive suitors.

O’Connor revealed that the belief is that the Blazers, if they trade Lillard, could receive a package that surpasses what the Rockets received for James Harden.

Front-office executives say that if the Blazers eventually move Lillard, they can expect a return rivaling or surpassing what the Nets gave up for James Harden: multiple young players, plus three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps. Harden is a former MVP, but he had only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade. Portland could do even better because Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract worth a grand total of $176 million. The long-term security in Lillard’s contract could lead to more interest from teams and more return in a trade.

Lillard, who has earned six All-Star selections during his time in Portland, is under contract with the Blazers through the 2024-25 season. The final year of his contract contains a player option.

Along with Lillard trade speculation, O’Connor touched on a Sixers-Blazers trade centered around CJ McCollum and Ben Simmons. The story wraps up with a look at realistic options for Portland in free agency. O’Connor delivered a speculative look at a handful of players that could fall into the Blazers’ limited price range.

Just speculating, here’s a list of bigs that could fit Portland’s price range: Gorgui Dieng, Blake Griffin, Daniel Theis, Kelly Olynyk, Nicolas Batum, or Jeff Green. Acquirable wings are guys like Tony Snell and Rudy Gay. Even Doug McDermott, Evan Fournier, and Kelly Oubre Jr. are probably all too pricey. Any other key free-agent target would realistically have to come via sign-and-trade. A shooter like Duncan Robinson or a big like John Collins makes some sense, but the Blazers would have competition for them and would have to give up something of value in return.

You can read the full story from O’Connor at The Ringer.