If you followed the reporting of Five Reasons Sports and Five on the Floor last month, you knew that the door was cracked open for Damian Lillard to finally ask out of Portland.
Now the noise around the Trail Blazers star is even louder. Everyone from Yahoo’s Chris Haynes (Lillard’s media confidant) to others in mainstream NBA media are reporting that Lillard could request a trade at some point. At the moment, Lillard is making it known that the Blazers are in “prove it” mode, needing to build a contending roster soon — which will be difficult to do given Portland’s limited assets and challenging geography.
If Lillard is to request a trade during the 2021 off-season, and IF Portland is willing to hit the reset button, who are the teams that have a true chance to make it happen? Let us explore the top options.
The New York Knicks.
Out of all the teams that can attempt to trade for Damian Lillard, the New York Knicks seemingly have the most assets to throw at Portland, and a head coach Tom Thibodeau that has always been willing to sacrifice youth for experienced veteran talent. A trade package potentially featuring recent lottery picks RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin, up and coming players such as Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson and a grand total of (6) movable 1st round picks and 4 pick swaps is far and away the most attractive trade option of Blazers. The questions become: will a team headlined by Damian Lillard & Julius Randle be enough to make any noise in the east in the upcoming years, nonetheless make an NBA finals appearance with juggernauts like the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks in their way?
The Philadelphia 76ers.
76er GM Daryl Morey has never been shy when it comes to bringing in big names and superstar talent to win an NBA Championship, with a rap sheet that includes trading for MVP winners James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and all-time great Point Guard Chris Paul during his tender as Houston Rockets GM. Morey is in familiar territory, having in his hand a MVP caliber and top 10 NBA player in Joel Embiid and having the task to build a championship contender around him. Morey has potentially (depending on what a team later on this list is willing to give) the most established and decorated Player to offer to Portland in a trade: Ben Simmons. Having mad multiple All-Star teams, multiple All-Defensive teams, and an All-NBA team in only 4 played NBA seasons, Simmons is sure to be a valuable Cornerstone for Portland if they obtain him, even after his recent playoff woes. A Trade package involving Ben Simmons, Rookie Tyrese Maxey, and all-defensive team member Matisse Thybulle along with 3 movable 1st round picks and 4 pick swaps, the Philadelphia 76ers have enough ammo to outbid almost anybody. Damian Lillard, alongside Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris would have as much a chance as anybody to make an NBA Finals run.
The Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors and GM Bob Myers have been silently preparing for the opportunity to make one more championship run while Superstar Stephen Curry is still in his prime, albeit not in the way one would hope for. After the departure of Kevin Durant, back-to-back seasons with Star Klay Thompson suffering season ending injuries and even curry and Draymond missing time, the warriors have been able to stock up on draft assets and prospects that can be used to bring in another superstar, including Oakland Native Damian Lillard. Having the 7th pick form a prior trade with the Timberwolves, and their own 14th pick, along side last years #2 overall pick James Wisemen is a great starting point for the warriors to begin trade negotiations, as well as 4 other movable first round picks. The only true huddle, besides cap room, for Golden State is the possible reluctantly from Portland to trade Lillard to a rival Western team, although if Portland decides to go in to a full flanged Rebuild, it might not matter what conference Lillard goes to in their eyes. Certainly, a trio of Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and the returning Klay Thompson would be one of the most electric offensives in NBA History.
The Miami Heat.
A popular phase within the Miami Heat fandom is “In Riley we trust”, and with good reason. Always been on the lookout for his next “Whale”, Pat Riley is no stranger to going above and beyond to bring a top-level superstar to Miami. Wither it has been trading budding star Glen Rice to bring in a disgruntled Alonzo Mourning from Charlotte, cutting ties with multiple promising young assets such as Caron Butler and Lamar Odom to bring in the NBAs most dominant big man in recent memory, Shaquille O’Neal, or sign and trade deals to bring franchise changing talents such as Lebron James and Jimmy Butler, Pat is as well versed as they come in terms of wheeling and dealing star talent to Miami. His only obstacle (although if you ask Pat “there are none”) is the lack of assets Miami has in its disposal compared to the other teams mentioned in this Article. Having very little in terms of movable draft picks, the only true assets Miami has to offer are Tyler Herro, Precious Achiuwa and KZ Okpala.
That is of course, unless Pat is willing to part ways with a budding Superstar of his own in Bam Adebayo. Bam is far and away the most attractive Player in a potential Damian Lillard trade if Pat were to make him available, and realistically the only ways for Miami to receive Lillard form Portland would be if Bam is included. so many factors are involved to make a decision of this magnitude, including Miami’s own superstar Jimmy Butler input. Another factor not many are taking into account is, if Miami is to trade bam for Damian Lillard, and assuming they are to also extend Jimmy Butler this summer, they would have two players deep in their 30’s making upwards of 45 million dollars by 2023-2024. This is a decision that would put at risk any movement in upcoming seasons, and in reality, it is anything up a guarantee that a duo o Jimmy Butler and Damian Lillard will bring s championship during that window. Will the alure of acquiring a top 10 talent like Lillard be too much for Riley to resist?
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