It’s the Trail Blazers “most important offseason” since Damian Lillard has been in Portland, according to the franchise point guard himself.
Dame doesn’t “have much of an appetite for building with guys 2 and 3 years away and not really [going] after it.”
There will be “serious conversations about what’s next for both sides.”
It appears one of two options are available to the Blazers front office: trade some combination of young players and picks to add more win-now pieces to the roster, or trade Dame to a contender where he can chase a title.
Lillard had one more thing to say when speaking about possibly adding those win-now pieces:
Who are the “needle-movers” Damian Lillard claims want to join the Blazers?
This is complete guesswork. Multiple players have been linked to Portland through Lillard, but there have been no reports confirming those rumors.
Still, Dame knows more than the rest of us, and if he believes there are players good enough to help him and the Blazers push for a championship next season, we should take him at his word.
By digging through Lillard’s league-wide relationships, supposed friendships, and some gossip, four players stick out who fit some, or all, of the following criteria:
- Stars or borderline stars
- Previous Dame teammates
- Players who Lillard has praised at one time or another
- Players who make sense as fits around Lillard
- Players who would fix some of the Blazers weaknesses
So who are they?
1. Mikal Bridges
When ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith asked Lillard to name some of his favorite NBA players shortly after the conclusion of Portland’s 2022-23 season, Dame laid part of his answer out in simple terms: “I love Mikal Bridges.”
Lillard and Bridges share the same trainer. When Bridges’ potential was questioned early in his career, Dame came to his defense.
“If I had to say a player right now that I would want to add to our team, I would say somebody like Mikal Bridges or OG Anunoby or Jarred Vanderbilt,” Lillard said on The Dave Pasch Podcast (h/t Heavy.com) before the start of last season.
Dame was spotted on the sidelines during one of the Nets’ playoff games against the Philadelphia 76ers in this year’s Eastern Conference opening round.
Whether that was recruiting or not, there are obviously connections between Dame and the 26-year-old two-way wing who proved himself as a legitimate go-to option during his 27 games in Brooklyn last year.