In a recent interview on The Last Stand with ESPN’s Brian Custer, as reported by the Miami Herald, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard was asked which NBA contender could make him say, ‘that’s not too bad,’” as a possible trade destination if he departs Rip City.
Of the Knicks, Heat, Celtics, and Nets, he said “Miami obviously…Miami is the obvious one. And Bam [Adebayo] is my dog. Bam is my dog for real. Miami is the obvious one. Brooklyn is another obvious one, because Mikal Bridges is my dog too.”
It’s important to note Lillard was asked if he believes he’ll start next season in Portland, to which he responded, “I do.”
His comments create an interesting discussion, however: If Dame wanted out of Portland, should the Blazers honor his wishes and explore trade possibilities to his preferred destinations?
This article explains why the answer is a resounding YES and examines what the Heat and Nets could offer the Blazers if they were the only two destinations on Lillard’s trade list.
Embracing Damian Lillard’s Vision
Lillard’s commitment to the Trail Blazers throughout his career has been unwavering. He has become the face of the franchise and garnered immense respect, both on and off the court. If he were to request a trade, it would be in the best interest of the Blazers to consider his wishes seriously.
Granting Lillard the opportunity to team up with players he admires and trusts, such as Bam Adebayo in Miami or Mikal Bridges in Brooklyn, could help the franchise maintain a positive relationship with its star player.
This paves the way for keeping strong relationships with budding stars Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe, who would be built around in the case of Lillard’s potential departure.
The path to a Blazers rebuild
In the event of a potential Lillard trade, the Trail Blazers would find themselves in a position to rebuild around their young talent. Simons and Sharpe, along with the addition of the third overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft, could form the core of the new era.
To facilitate this rebuild successfully, the Blazers should aim to acquire young future stars, valuable draft picks, and expiring veteran deals to match Dame’s salary in any potential trade.
Miami Heat trade scenario
If the Heat was to be the destination for Lillard, the inclusion of Tyler Herro, an emerging young talent, would become crucial to the Blazers’ rebuild. In this scenario, the Blazers would face the challenge of matching salaries.
A potential trade package could involve Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic in exchange for Herro, Kyle Lowry, and Duncan Robinson, accompanied by a bounty of draft picks (e.g., 2023, 2026, and 2028 first-round picks).
This deal would enable the Blazers to shed two large veteran contracts at once with the intention of trading Lowry for additional assets to bolster their rebuilding process once possible.
Brooklyn Nets trade scenario
If Lillard’s preference lies with the Nets, Mikal Bridges – the Nets’ best young player – would unfortunately be off the table. In such a case, the Blazers could set their sights on acquiring Nic Claxton, a promising young big man.
To facilitate this trade, Portland would need to absorb contracts such as Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, and/or Royce O’Neale. Alongside Claxton, the Blazers could amass a valuable collection of draft picks, including first-round selections in 2023, 2025, 2027, and 2029.
Again, while it is essential to note that Lillard has not explicitly requested a trade, the possibility remains. Should Lillard express a desire to join Miami or Brooklyn, the Blazers should seriously consider honoring his wishes.
Doing so would not only maintain a positive relationship with their star player, but also provide the Blazers with a golden opportunity to initiate a successful rebuild.
By acquiring talented young players, valuable draft picks, and expiring veteran contracts, the Blazers could lay a solid foundation for the future. The potential trade scenarios presented demonstrate that a deal involving Lillard could not only benefit the player, but also provide Portland with the assets necessary to embark on a promising new era.
Ultimately, the Blazers should prioritize the long-term success of the franchise while acknowledging the invaluable contributions and wishes of their star player, Damian Lillard.