It’s another Damian Lillard-centric offseason in Portland, except this one will almost certainly end with the Trail Blazers franchise looking drastically different.
The roster will have either been reworked into one that gives Dame a final career push at an NBA championship or morphed into something that doesn’t resemble anything Blazers fans have seen since 2011.
The rumors will be flying for the next few months, in one direction or the other. Is it better for Portland to give Lillard that opportunity elsewhere and rebuild or potentially mortgage the future for another superstar?
One proposed trade that focuses on the former outcome absurdly sends an overpaid former All-NBA “superstar” to the Blazers to replace arguably the greatest player in franchise history.
Potential trade sends Damian Lillard to Brooklyn Nets and Ben Simmons to Portland Trail Blazers
Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report – in a piece entitled, “Trade Ideas to Replace NBA’s Most Disappointing Starters” – proposes a deal that sends Lillard to Brooklyn in exchange for Ben Simmons.
Why are we roping Dame into a trade that can help the Nets replace Ben Simmons?
The complete deal:
Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons, Cam Thomas, Royce O’Neale, Patty Mills, Day’Ron Sharpe, 2025 first-round pick (via Phoenix), 2027 first-round pick (via Phoenix) and 2029 first-round pick
Nets receive: Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic
In a vacuum, Portland moving on from Dame and Brooklyn moving on from Simmons both make sense. In this specific trade, at least from the Blazers’ perspective, not so much.
About the exchange, Buckley wrote, in part: “[Simmons] has battled knee and back injuries for much of the past two seasons, but he made it on the floor 42 times during this campaign and looked lost when he did. He hesitated to even look at the basket and wound up attempting just 5.6 field goals per game, fifth-fewest among the 169 players who averaged 25-plus minutes.
“He shot a disastrous 25-of-57 at the line (43.9). His turnover percentage, which had never previously been above 20.4, spiked to 27.2. His 13.4 player efficiency rating landed way behind his previous low of 18.3; same went for his win shares per 48 minutes (.097, was 0.146).”
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it?
If Lillard ends up in Brooklyn, Simmons will likely have to come back to Portland to make the salaries work. If that’s the case, the Blazers will have the chance to give the former No. 1 overall pick a career reset.
Simmons is only 26, has made two NBA All-Defensive teams, and was a named Third-Team All-NBA in 2019-20. Is there a world in which he goes to a smaller market with less pressure and is able to regain some of that form? Sure.
Given the last two seasons worth of evidence, though, that world exists in another part of the multiverse, and some role players and a few late first-round picks from the Suns won’t get this trade over the line.
If this is the best offer the Trail Blazers get for Dame, they’d be better off running it back with the same team that earned the fifth-overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft.