Grade the Trade: Blazers swap Lillard for Lillard copycat in proposed move

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Whether it’s this summer or sometime during the upcoming season, Damian Lillard will likely end up playing for the Miami Heat. But as the Heat and Portland Trail Blazers have apparently reached an impasse on Lillard trade talks, it might be time to start thinking about other options for general manager Joe Cronin and the Trail Blazers.

Maybe it’s a deal with the Brooklyn Nets for a package of picks. Maybe the Utah Jazz get involved with their own picks and a young player or two. Maybe the San Antonio Spurs decide it’s time to speed up the rebuild and give Victor Wembanyama an All-NBA point guard to play off of.

Or, maybe an unexpected team jumps into the mix and offers the Blazers a package they can’t say no to. Or perhaps a team comes out of nowhere and offers Portland a like-for-like swap for Lillard that would help the Blazers move sideways, not forward.

Blazers trade Damian Lillard to Hawks for Trae Young in B/R proposal

In a “5 Wild NBA Trades That Could Actually Work” story on Bleacher Report, Zach Buckley has Portland swapping Lillard for Young a few other pieces.

The trade:

Atlanta Hawks receive: Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers receive: Trae Young, Jalen Johnson, 2024 first-round pick (lottery protected, via SAC), 2029 first-round pick, two first-round pick swaps (2028, 2030)

The most enjoyable part of this deal, from a Portland perspective, is the package of first-round picks and pick swaps. Johnson is a young wing who’s shown some defensive versatility and offensive upside, but he would be more of a lottery-ticket swing than anything else.

The clear headliner in the deal is the swap of Lillard and Young.

On the surface, the Trail Blazers simply get a younger version of Dame. Trae is a scoring point guard with unlimited range, like Lillard, and is a pick-and-roll maestro, like Lillard. Young might even be a better passer and playmaker.

But Portland would only be replacing Dame with a smaller version of him, which would create multiple issues. It wouldn’t solve anything defensively, as the Blazers would still be stuck with a diminutive point guard. If Portland’s goal is to build around Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe, then Young enters the picture as another small, ball-dominant scorer.

Would he even be willing to defer to Scoot and play as a spot-up shooter on some possessions? His career, at least thus far, says that’s a massive no.

Next year’s draft class is considered to be one of the worst in recent memory. A 2029 first from Atlanta, which would likely come after Dame’s time with the Hawks, could be attractive, and maybe the two swaps could move the Blazers’ selections up a few spots.

dark. Next. Should Blazers take a flier on former All-NBA star in Lillard trade?

Acquiring a star for Lillard rather than four first-rounders and a few young players, for example, isn’t the worst idea. But this one is a move sideways, not a move forward, which is the last thing Portland needs in any sort of Lillard trade.