Grade the trade: Blazers swap superstars in proposed 4-team Lillard deal

James Harden, Brooklyn Nets; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
James Harden, Brooklyn Nets; Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /
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James Harden lands with the Portland Trail Blazers in a mock Damian Lillard trade.
James Harden, Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Is this Damian Lillard/James Harden-centric trade a good deal for the Blazers?

It’s important to note that Bailey lists Harden and Lowry as “James Harden’s expiring contract (can be flipped later)” and “Kyle Lowry’s expiring contract” in his piece. That’s where Portland’s eventual grade would come from: Can the Blazers send Harden on to his preferred team (Los Angeles Clippers) for a worthwhile return? And what do they do with Lowry?

The Sixers-Clippers trade rumors generally surround 27-year-old guard Terence Mann – who LA has refused to part with to this point – a few of the Clippers’ future first-round picks (they own their own picks from 2027-2030, but with the Stepien Rule they can only trade two of those), Norman Powell, the expiring contracts of Marcus Morris Sr. and Nicolas Batum, possibly veterans like Mason Plumlee and Amir Coffey, and potentially young prospects like Kobe Brown, Brandon Boston Jr. and Jason Preston.

To this point, the Clippers have offered a couple firsts, Powell, and an expiring contract like Batum. If that’s what Portland is going to land in exchange for Harden, this is what a potential complete package could look like after sending Lillard and Nurkic to Miami and flipping Harden to LA for the Clippers’ desired basic package:

Lowry ($29.7 million expiring), Jaquez Jr., Jovic, 2028 first-round pick from Miami, 2030 first-round pick from Miami, 2027 first-round pick from LA, 2029 first-round pick from LA, Powell, Batum ($11.7 million expiring), 2030 second-round pick from Chicago

That’s not the most enticing package ever, as there’s no obvious superstar or building block on its way to Portland. Jaquez Jr. and Jovic are intriguing young players and Powell is a good, not great, starting-caliber guard.

Future firsts from the Heat and Clippers years down the road have the potential to become useful selections. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard likely won’t be in LA in 2027 and Harden will be in his late 30s, not to mention what things could look like two years later. What will be going on in Miami with an aging Lillard and Jimmy Butler in 2028 and 2030?

Powell is another player the Blazers could decide to flip, whether immediately after this deal or at this year’s trade deadline. There’s no room for a veteran guard in an already crowded backcourt, and he surely wants no part of a rebuild.

Portland could potentially do the same with Lowry, although it may be hard to find takers for a 37-year-old guard on that salary. Batum is in the same situation, though he’s owed a lot less money.

This is more of a quantity over quality package unless one of those future first-rounders hit and become high lottery picks. But accounting for a Powell trade that could net a few more assets, this return is much more attractive for the Blazers than anything that’s been floated around from the Heat alone.

Trade grade: B-

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