The Portland Trail Blazers have been stewing on a Damian Lillard trade request for about six weeks now, and they have done little to nothing to change the situation.
The Miami Heat appear to be the favorites to eventually land him, but the Blazers have no reason to trade him now before training camp isn’t even in the peripheral vision. Even when September rolls into October, the Blazers won’t have legitimate reason to trade for him, unless they get an offer they can’t refuse.
The Athletic’s John Hollinger explains why the Blazers have the leverage over Lillard.
Thus, trading Lillard is clearly the logical move for the Blazers … but on their timeline, not Lillard’s, and not necessarily to the team of Lillard’s choosing. As with Harden, Lillard’s leverage is basically limited to threatening to be an insufferable jerk if he’s not in the city of his choosing, because he still has three years left before he can become a free agent.
With James Harden doubling down on his desire to be traded after the Philadelphia 76ers took him off the market, it emphasizes even further how much the Blazers are in control of the Lillard situation.
Additionally, the Blazers aren’t in win-now mode the way Philly is. As a result, “Trade me or else” is easily greeted with a shrug and “Or what?” And in this case, Lillard holding out would actually be helpful for the Blazers, as he’s likely the only thing standing between the Blazers and another high lottery pick. Portland has time on its side to wait for the best offer, even if it drags into the trade deadline or beyond. Lillard gave up his opportunity for leverage when he inked the extension.
The Sixers don’t have the same timeline with Harden. He is a free agent at season’s end and Philadelphia is in a playoff window. The team also employs reigning MVP Joel Embiid, making the process much more delicate.
As for the Blazers, they have their rebuild foundation set with Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe and with three years left on Lillard’s contract, it could be a while before Portland eventually kicks the tires on a trade if there aren’t any other offers suitable to the team.