After Damian Lillard signed his two-year, $122 million extension this past week, his contract (along with 2012 NBA Draft classmate Bradley Beal’s) has become one of the most divisive topics among NBA analysts. On one end, loyalty and stability is celebrated; one the other, some, including The Athletic’s John Hollinger are wondering if it’s a move the Portland Trail Blazers front office will live to regret.
Comparing Lillard’s and Beal’s deals to younger talent like that of Ja Morant or Zion Williamson, Hollinger argued that it appeared that front offices “handed over pens and let the players fill in whatever.” Relating the two stars throughout, he also noted that their ages — Lillard will be 32 on July 15, Beal just turned 29 — make it so that they could be at the tail end of their peaks. As he notes:
Instead, each team has more or less surrendered, locking into outsized deals that will pay them well into their decline phases, all to win a bidding war against — checks notes — nobody. Portland signed off on a two-year, $122 million max extension for Lillard that will pay him $63 million in 2026-27, when he’s 36, despite being under absolutely no pressure to do this. Lillard was already signed through 2025 and was coming off an injury-plagued season.
It’s a move that Hollinger argues not only kills cap space, but also takes away Portland’s leverage, should they want to pivot into a new era if they can’t return to the top of the Western Conference in the near future.
Over the rest of the article, Hollinger analyzes Beal’s deal, the controversial no-trade clause, and how it could have them chasing mediocrity once more, along with some similarities in how the Trail Blazers’ and Washington Wizards’ situations could play out.