Almost the second the Portland Trail Blazers selected Scoot Henderson with the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the narrative quickly flipped from what should have been an exciting moment – a potential All-NBA point guard slipping to you in the draft after you vaulted into the top three of the lottery – to “Does that mean a Damian Lillard trade is coming?”
The general feeling is that Henderson and Lillard can’t co-exist, and that once the Scoot pick was made, Dame would be on his way out of Portland before the start of next season. Maybe that will turn out to be true, maybe it won’t.
There’s no question, though, that something is changing; whether the Blazers continue to try and straddle the line between developing young players and appeasing Lillard or if the Dame era in Portland has simply run its course, the 2023-24 season will have a new vibe to it.
If trading Lillard is the route the franchise wants to take, the next question becomes, “What is Portland getting in return?”
The 32-year-old point guard has mentioned the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets as potential places he’d like to land if he’s dealt – does Blazers’ General Manager Joe Cronin reward Lillard’s loyalty to the team and send him to one of his preferred destinations? Or does he just go out and find the best package available?
To that end, here are three potential trades that would officially close the book on Dame’s time in Portland: one that could become a dream for the Blazers, one that would instantly become a nightmare, and one deal that might make sense for all parties involved.
Dream Damian Lillard trade for Trail Blazers
There’s a foundation that points toward a possible match involving the Blazers and Orlando Magic, however unlikely, but this one might be too good to be true for Portland.
The Magic acquire an All-NBA point guard to quickly accelerate its timeline while keeping 2023 NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero and center Wendell Carter Jr. Lillard would be a huge boon for Banchero with his ability to create shots and space the floor.
Markelle Fultz wouldn’t be a terrible backcourt partner for Lillard as a defender and facilitator, and Jalen Suggs would also help as a defense-first guard with size.
The offense outside of Dame, Paolo, and Carter Jr., though, would leave a lot to be desired.
The Blazers win this trade with the addition of Wagner, of the best young and versatile forwards in the league; Black, this year’s No. 6 pick; and three future firsts to go along with Harris and Isaac to match salaries.
Wagner is a 6-foot-9 playmaker, shot-creator, shooter, and multi-positional defender. He’s only 21 years old, so he would fit any Blazers rebuilding timeline.
Black is a 19-year-old point guard in the same mold. He’s tall and long at 6-7 and is a pass-first playmaker with a high basketball IQ and the potential to be an exceptional, versatile defender. He would balance out Portland’s backcourt as a bigger, connective guard willing to share the ball and do the little things.
Adding three future firsts to a core of Henderson, Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, Wagner, and Black would be icing on the cake. Harris has a $13 million expiring contract and Isaac still has potential as defender, if he can ever stay healthy.