Despite being 32 years old, Damian Lillard is coming off one of the best seasons of his career in which he averaged 32.2 points per game. However, even with Lillard’s All-NBA caliber season, the Blazers finished with a 33-49 record and failed to make the play-in tournament.
Lillard has already been extraordinarily loyal and patient with the organization, but the Blazers need to do a better job of putting him in a position to lead a contending team.
He has made it abundantly clear that he has no desire to go through a rebuilding process with the Trail Blazers; he had the following to say regarding his future in Portland and the direction of the franchise:
"“I don’t have much of an appetite for bringing in guys two and three years away from really going after it. This is not a secret. I want a chance to go for it. And if the route is to do that, then that’s not my route.”"
As a result, the pressure is on the Blazers’ front office to acquire a co-star to pair with Lillard. Otherwise, they risk potentially losing their star guard.
Portland could offer a trade package involving their coveted draft picks and emerging young stars. The question is, will that be enough?
Do the Blazers have enough to acquire another superstar to pair with Dame?
First, we will evaluate the Blazers’ trade assets. Then, we will look at past blockbuster trades. We can select prior trades as references in which comparable assets were involved in acquiring a star.
Here are some of the significant assets the Blazers have to potentially offer:
Anfernee Simons is only 23 and has a favorable contract with three years remaining on his four-year, $100 million deal. Simons increased his production this season, finishing with averages of 21.1 points and 4.1 assists per game. He’s still developing and could be of great value in the last few years of his contract as he continues to improve.
Simons is one of the main assets the Blazers can include in any trade. For the Blazers, the fact that Lillard and Simons have overlapping skill sets further increases the likelihood that Portland would include him in any potential blockbuster package.
Shaedon Sharpe was highly entertaining in games in which the Blazers were tanking and relying more on their younger players. Sharpe displayed flashes of All-Star potential and gave the Blazers fans a lot to be excited about.
In the last 10 games of the regular season, Sharpe averaged 23.7 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 46/36/78 shooting splits. He will be a heavily coveted asset that many teams will inquire about to see if he’s available.
The Blazers will have a huge decision to make regarding Sharpe. On one hand, he’s 19 years old, which doesn’t align well with the Blazers’ win-now timeline they want to implement. But, if the last 10 games were any indication, Sharpe could make a massive jump in year two.
However, if the Blazers want to get a true superstar, both Simons and Sharpe may have to be included in a potential deal.
An NBA team can trade future picks up to seven years in advance. The caveat is that teams can’t go two consecutive seasons without having a first-round pick.
The Blazers still owe the Bulls a lottery-protected first-round pick (protected through 2028) as part of the Larry Nance Jr. trade, which limits their flexibility. So if Portland makes a significant trade, they’ll likely first have to negotiate with the Bulls to remove future restrictions.
Assuming they get that done, they’ll have all seven years’ worth of trade assets to deal with (except for any given to Chicago as part of lifting the protections).
For example, the Blazers could strike a deal with the Bulls to give them the Knicks’ first-round pick they have in this year’s draft instead their own future pick. Then, Portland could offer a team their first-round picks in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029.
In addition, they could throw in pick swaps in 2024, 2026, and 2028.
That’s an extremely intriguing package, especially factoring in the Blazers’ draft pick this season. Portland has the fifth-best lottery odds in a draft loaded with potential stars.