The Portland Trail Blazers are at a crossroads. They have a Hall of Fame guard still at the tail end of his prime, but Damian Lillard won’t be a top-10 player forever. On the other hand, they have the No. 3 pick in this year’s NBA Draft and a pair of young guards in Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe.
The Blazers have attempted, until now, to thread the needle, drafting and developing young talent while holding onto Lillard and signing Jerami Grant last offseason. With Grant hitting free agency this summer, the Blazers again have to make a decision on their future.
How do the Portland Trail Blazers trade for a co-star for Lillard?
Trading Lillard is a possibility, but it could be decades before the Blazers get another player as good as Lillard. The more likely path forward is for Portland to look for a co-star to slot in between Lillard and Grant in the pecking order.
With Sharpe showing flashes of greatness and the Blazers needing matching salary for any trade that brings back a star, Simons looks like the clear option to go out in a deal. Who could Portland be targeting in such a trade?
Here are four options the Blazers should look into when they go shopping for a star.
Portland should trade Simons for Kristaps Porzingis
If the Trail Blazers want to find a trade partner to add a co-star without moving the No. 3 pick or dealing Sharpe, Kristaps Porzingis is the type of player they should target. The Latvian center had a bounceback year for the Washington Wizards this past season and is in line for a payday this summer.
With the Wizards stuck in the same middle-class mediocrity as the Blazers, except without the occasional highs that Lillard has brought to Portland, their new general manager, Michael Winger, could lead the franchise in a rebuild. If so, Porzingis would be a logical trade target for the Blazers.
The 7-foot-3 center averaged a career-best 23.2 points per game along with 8.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last year. He has come into his inheritance as the true NBA “unicorn” with his combination of shooting and shot-blocking; only six players in NBA history have had 1.5 blocks and 2.1 3-pointers per game in a season, and Porzingis is the only one to do it twice, including this past season.
Trading a package centered around Simons and the No. 23 pick for Porzingis would create a nasty pick-and-pop combination with Lillard and Porzingis, with Grant deployed at the 4 to cause havoc defensively and act as a secondary shot creator.
It’s not the highest-upside option, and Porzingis comes with plenty of injury risk, but this allows the Blazers to use the No. 3 pick on a top prospect or in another trade.