1 Dream, 1 Nightmare, 1 Realistic Blazers Damian Lillard trade after draft

Damian Lillard (left), Joe Cronin, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard (left), Joe Cronin, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images) /
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A Damian Lillard trade to the Brooklyn Nets might be realistic for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Brooklyn Nets logo, Barclay’s Center (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Realistic Damian Lillard Trade for Trail Blazers

As the Nets were Dame’s other preferred landing spot, this deal is a fair compromise that gets him to a place he wants to be while allowing the Blazers to cash in with a legitimate return package.

Brooklyn gets Lillard to pair with his buddy Mikal Bridges. The Nets have publicly stated they’ll match any offer made to restricted free-agent forward Cam Johnson. Dorian Finney-Smith is a three-and-D player who can help Brooklyn compete now. Spencer Dinwiddie is a backcourt match for Lillard as a taller and more capable defender.

The only on-court asset Brooklyn would be parting with in this deal that played a real role last season is Claxton. Simmons has played 42 games the past two seasons, and Thomas was a DNP-coach’s decision in two of the Nets’ four playoff games last year.

The return for the Trail Blazers, in this scenario, is all about the future.

Claxton should become a core player in Portland as the ideal pick-and-roll partner for any of Henderson, Simons, or Sharpe, and the last line of the Blazers’ defense at the rim. The 24-year-old averaged 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks last season.

A roster featuring those four, along with rookies Kris Murray and Rayan Rupert, would be fun to watch play under zero pressure. They wouldn’t win very many games, which would give Portland more lottery picks and bites at the apple. The selections coming back from Brooklyn are down the line and from teams like Phoenix and Philadelphia, who may not be competitive anymore as their stars age out.

Thomas is a lottery-ticket flier who can score in bunches, and he could turn into a bigger asset on a rebuilding team where he’d have the freedom to shoot without consequence and pad his stats.

Simmons…well, you never know. Insert generic: “He was an All-NBA player and defender when he was healthy” argument here. If he rediscovers any form at all, cool. If not, his $40 million salary comes off the books after the 2024-25 season, and Portland wouldn’t be in a hurry to spend any money, this year or next, in this scenario anyway.

Next. 3 free agent fits for the Blazers following the 2023 NBA Draft. dark

Should Lillard be traded? Maybe, maybe not. Will he be? It’s possible. There’s still a lot of offseason left for Cronin to make additions to the current roster, but if the worst happens and Dame is shipped elsewhere, this type of return should be acceptable for the Blazers.