Blazers should regret missed opportunity in Damian Lillard trade now more than ever

The Blazers' recent trade leaves fans wondering, "What if" Portland moved Lillard elsewhere?
Milwaukee Bucks v Portland Trail Blazers
Milwaukee Bucks v Portland Trail Blazers / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The Portland Trail Blazers' path toward rebuilding has recently become much more straightforward, adding two pivotal pieces in Donovan Clingan and Deni Avdija. However, they still don't have enough firepower to be considered legitimate playoff contenders in the Western Conference. While they have multiple up-and-coming players who are 25 years or younger, they don't have a prominent star to build around as many other rebuilding teams have. It leaves Blazers fans wondering if the moves made last offseason put their team on the optimal rebuilding path.

Here's what the Blazers have turned the Damian Lillard trade into following the original deal with the Bucks and subsequent moves with the Celtics and Wizards:

  • Deandre Ayton
  • Deni Avdija
  • Robert Williams III
  • Toumani Camara
  • 2029 1st round pick (via Bucks or Celtics)
  • 2 First-round pick swaps

Portland would have been better off trading Lillard to Miami

Solid pieces are included in this package, with the recently acquired Avdija likely being the best player on the list. However, they are all role players to a certain extent. No one is a "needle mover" to put the Blazers over the top.

Per the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, Miami's reported offer centered around Tyler Herro, two first-round picks (2028 and 2030), and a salary filler along the lines of Kyle Lowry or Duncan Robinson. Various other trade rumors included Nikola Jovic in the deal as well, who would have been an ideal addition to their rebuild from a positional standpoint.

The first takeaway from the Blazers' return from trading Lillard is how little draft capital they have received in exchange. The deal with Miami would have netted them an additional first-round pick rather than pick swaps. Those 2028 and 2030 picks could have had much more value with an aging Lillard and Jimmy Butler.

The key to a successful rebuild, as evidenced by teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, is through the draft. Portland needed to put more emphasis on that in last offseason's deals.

Some point to the fact that Tyler Herro's skillset is redundant on Portland's roster since they already have an offensive-minded guard who looks to score in Anfernee Simons, among other promising backcourt players. However, Joe Cronin selected Clingan as the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft, even though they already had Deandre Ayton. He's mentioned that the Blazers are in "talent acquisition mode." Because they aren't yet ready to contend, stockpiling assets is the main priority at this point in the rebuild, even if the fit isn't ideal.

The Lillard return could look better in the future, as the Clingan allows other centers, Ayton and Williams, to be flipped. But it seems like sending Lillard to Miami would have been the better move for now. The Blazers may have been better off giving Lillard what he wanted.