Judging Damian Lillard’s value, 3 possible destinations if he asked for trade

Mar 3, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 3, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Atlanta Hawks guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (13) during the first half at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Damian Lillard is one of the most exciting players in the NBA, known for his clutch shooting and ability to take over games. He has indicated he wants to stay in Portland and have a team built around him that can contend.

In regard to the Trail Blazers rebuilding, however, he said, “That’s not what I’m interested in. That’s what the frustrating part of it is. Talking about what’s gonna happen next season. And us ‘building’. That’s not what I’m here to do, especially at this stage of my career.”

Dame is a seven-time All-Star who has played at an All-NBA level (for the seventh time in his career) this season. But what is his trade value, and what could a team realistically offer for him if Portland is unable to show it is trying to contend?

It’s worth noting that Lillard is under contract with the Trail Blazers through the 2024-25 season. He signed a four-year, $176 million extension in 2019 and exercised his $48,787,676 player option. This means that any team interested in acquiring him would likely have to offer a significant package of assets in return.

What might that package look like and who would be interested?

First and foremost, a team trading for Lillard would need to be contention-ready and have a young, budding star they could offer. The Blazers would likely want a young player – or players –  with high upside, as trading Lillard would trigger a rebuild around 19-year-old phenom Shaedon Sharpe.

Additionally, the Blazers would likely want multiple first-round draft picks, as well as some combination of established veterans and role players.

While every team should want to acquire one of the best shooters in the entire NBA, three teams in particular make the most sense as Lillard trade partners based on what they could offer and where they currently stand as franchises.

Denver Nuggets

The chance to maximize Nikola Jokic’s prime would be tough to pass up. The Nuggets are already one of the best teams in the NBA, but pairing Lillard’s outside shooting with Jokic’s inside scoring would make them far and away the most dangerous team.

To get this done, the Nuggets would need to send back Jamal Murray or Michael Porter Jr. plus a player such as Bruce Brown Jr. and a bounty of first-round picks – and they would likely make that trade without having to think twice.

In this case, the Blazers get a talented young scorer to pair with Sharpe and Anfernee Simons. A backcourt of those two with Porter Jr. at the three or Jamal Murray in the mix would be a big step toward contention once all those players mature.

Boston Celtics

If the Celtics sputter and can’t win it all this year, they may be encouraged to acquire Lillard to pair with superstar Jayson Tatum.

They would need to send back Jaylen Brown and another player like Robert Williams III or Derrick White, plus multiple first-round picks to get this done, but acquiring a superstar like Lillard would make them even more dynamic.

At 26 years old, Brown is still blossoming into a superstar and would keep the Blazers relevant as Sharpe matures. Brown could move to the three position and be the focal point of the offense.

Once Sharpe and Simons take the next step, this Blazers team would be very competitive. If Portland managed to get Williams as well, the franchise would finally have the ultra-talented young center it’s longed for.

New Orleans Pelicans

Star forward Zion Williamson deserves to have a studded roster built around him to bring New Orleans the first-ever championship in the franchise’s short history. Would the Pelicans run the same backcourt experiment of Lillard and C.J. McCollum that brought the Blazers to the 2019 Western Conference Finals?

Yes. A resounding yes.

That Blazers team lacked what the Pelicans have in a healthy Williamson, and Lillard makes this bubble team into a true contender. To make this trade happen, the Pelicans would likely need to send Brandon Ingram, Trey Murphy III, and every tradeable first-round pick.

This deal would give the Blazers a strong base to rebuild from. Ingram and Murphy III are on the same ascension timeline as Sharpe and Simons, so if the Blazers continued to develop all four players, they could be contenders in a few painstaking seasons.

Ultimately, Lillard’s trade value is difficult to quantify. He’s one of the best players in the league, and any team that acquires him would instantly become a contender, if not the best team in the league.

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However, the Blazers are unlikely to move him unless they receive a package of assets they feel can help them rebuild quickly. So while there will certainly be teams interested in acquiring Lillard, it’s unclear if any will be able to meet the Blazers’ asking price.