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Blazers Can Learn From James Harden Rockets Trade with Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard’s trade request is set to shake the Portland Trail Blazers to the core.

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

When Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard requested a trade, it wasn’t the first time a superstar asked out with four years on his deal.

Just three years ago, James Harden asked the Houston Rockets for a trade after some nine years with the team and failing to reach the NBA mountaintop.

While Lillard’s business will always feel unfinished in Portland, he is expected to exit the franchise as one of, if not the best player in franchise history, much like Harden did when he left Houston.

Here’s a look at the framework of the deal that sent Harden from the Rockets to the Brooklyn Nets in Jan. 2021:

Rockets: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, 3 BKN first-rounders (22, 24, 26), 1 MIL first (22, unprotected), 4 BKN 1st round swaps (21, 23, 25, 27)

Nets: James Harden

Pacers: Caris LeVert, 2nd-rounder

Cavs: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince

At the time, the Rockets showed a desire to focus on the future while also trying to build some sense of a competitive team in the present by turning an original three-team trade into a four-team deal by bringing in Victor Oladipo for Caris LeVert and a second-round pick. However, that clearly didn’t work as Oladipo was shipped at the deadline to the Miami Heat.

From there, the Rockets essentially started from scratch, filling a roster with a majority of nobodies and a bunch of picks.

The Blazers, luckily, won’t be starting from scratch, having Shaedon Sharpe, Scoot Henderson to build around and Jerami Grant’s veteran presence. That’s why the Blazers can afford to simply acquire a boatload of picks for Lillard.

Just three years later, the potential the Rockets drafted has turned into three starters (Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith Jr.) with three key bench players who could all blossom into talented starters (Amen Thompson, Tari Eason, Cam Whitmore).

It remains to be seen whether the Rockets will come out as a true winner for the Harden trade because their contending window has yet to happen. However, hope is all the Blazers have to hold on to, so they might as well trade Lillard to get a bunch of it in return.