It’s put up or shut up time for the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard era. As Dame Dolla himself said when addressing the idea of continuing to build through the draft via Jason Quick of The Athletic:
"I’m just not interested in that. That’s not a secret. I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to (draft youth), then that’s not my route. I know there are guys who really move the needle and want to [come to Portland]. But knowing that and actually making something happen to make that a reality is a completely separate thing."
Echoing Trail Blazers fans everywhere, Dame added, “But there is a difference in ‘We can do this … and we can do that’ and actually doing it.”
Reading between the lines (or perhaps it’s just clear and obvious), Portland needs to punt on this year’s lottery pick, unless it lands at No. 1, and put some other pieces together to make a trade of serious magnitude.
So in the spirit of actually doing it – meaning mortgaging the future to make a championship push in the present – here are six players who would give Lillard a star- to superstar-level running mate on a quest to the top of the Western Conference.
1. Draymond Green
Right out of the gate things get a little tricky. Green is a free agent and Portland isn’t flush with cash, so unless Draymond is willing to take a real discount to join Dame’s cause, this might need to be a sign-and-trade situation.
Sign-and-trades allow teams acquiring a player to exceed the salary cap, which means Green would have to sign a contract with the Golden State Warriors, who would then have to work out a deal with the Blazers to send Green to Portland.
Unfortunately this would, in all likelihood, mean going into the luxury tax, which majority governor Jody Allen has refused to do to this point.
Still, the 10-year veteran would be an ideal player for the Blazers to add. His combination of intangibles, championship experience, and still-top-shelf defense are three things the franchise is lacking and three things Lillard would surely welcome with open arms.
Green is a four-time NBA champion, a four-time All-Star, and a former Defensive Player of the Year. His communication and connectiveness is what took the Warriors from title contenders to dynasty.
Dame proved this season he can carry the team’s offense. Jerami Grant showed he can be a No. 2 option when called upon. Draymond wouldn’t need to provide a massive offensive jolt – he’d only need to continue to do what has made him a future hall of famer.