Year in and year out, Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard makes his intentions clear that regardless of what other superstar talents are doing, he intends to grind away with the team that took a chance on him in the 2012 NBA Draft. Though, given their current situation, that hasn’t deterred NBA insiders from, at the very least, entertaining the idea of the Blazers going all-in on their asset-building retool, dealing even him away in the process.
In his analysis of the 2022 NBA Draft, The Athletic’s Cole Huff picked out three teams — the Blazers included — that have considerable questions worth answering in the lead-up to next month’s Draft (subscription required). In considering the uncertain futures of his potential running mates, including Anfernee Simons, Jusuf Nurkic and Josh Hart, Huff considers the idea of dealing Lillard, under the following circumstances:
Should the Blazers actually plan on drafting a player with the pick, the next step becomes simple — commit to a full-on rebuild. That includes doing right by Lillard and sending him to a contender, which would accomplish several things. For Lillard, he’d get to go play winning basketball elsewhere and avoid having to sit through another potentially frustrating season. And for Portland, the team could get in return some significant assets to help build the team back up in the coming seasons.
The idea is nothing new across the NBA; two of the league’s last five Most Valuable Player award recipients, namely James Harden and Russell Westbrook, have played a hand in orchestrating trades that put them in tenable situations in their chase for an NBA championship. For Lillard — tied for the third-longest tenured player for his respective team behind Stephen Curry and Udonis Haslem — loyalty has prevented any such talks from gaining steam.
Huff also hits on a few of the key targets, such as Deandre Ayton and Jerami Grant, which, though it would cost the Blazers the No. 7 selection, would field a more competitive team in the immediate future. In the article, Huff also hits on the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings’ draft situations as well.