Could Damian Lillard be on the move?
According to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop, Lillard plans to request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in the days to come.
"If this is a surprise, you haven't been paying attention," writes Abbott. "As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team. The Blazers are prominent in trade rumors."
Source: Blazers star Damian Lillard to request trade in the days to come.- Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) July 16, 2021
If this is a surprise, you haven't been paying attention. https://t.co/FS7KL1pPPm
When asked about the report following a practice with Team USA, however, Lillard said it's "not true."
Damian Lillard says he woke up to reports of him on the verge of requesting a trade "is not true." And says secondly, "I haven't made any firm decisions on what my future will be."- Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 16, 2021
Time will tell if Lillard does end up requesting a trade, but it has the potential to shake up the league in a big way if he does.
A six-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA selection who is still in the prime of his career, Lillard is widely considered to be one of the league's best players. He's averaged 27.7 points, 7.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game over the last four seasons, doing so on 44.9 percent shooting from the field and 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
With range that extends far beyond the 3-point line...
...Lillard bends defenses in a way few others can.
Lillard is also one of the league's best closers. Not only does he have a number of big shots to his name, he led the league in clutch scoring in 2020-21 at incredible levels of efficiency.
We're not far removed from James Harden requesting a trade, but it's rare for a player of Lillard's calibre to become available, especially when they're under contract for as long as he is. (The soonest Lillard can become a free agent again is following the 2024-25 season, by which point he will be 35 years old). To no surprise, Lillard's value around the league is said to be "sky high," although Abbott notes that his contract situation could take away some of his leverage if he does request a trade.
So which teams could pursue Lillard?
There are a few that come to mind.
The first is the Philadelphia 76ers, who have reportedly "opened up" trade conversations surrounding three-time All-Star Ben Simmons. According to Marc Stein, 76ers president Daryl Morey "longs" for Lillard, not CJ McCollum, if he is to target any Blazer in a trade. (No surprises there). Lillard and Joel Embiid would make for one of the league's best one-two punches, whereas Simmons would give the Blazers a young star to build around.
Another team is the Golden State Warriors. According to The Athletic's Anthony Slater, the Warriors have already "internally discussed the idea" of pursuing Lillard should he become available. The Warriors wouldn't necessarily have to part ways with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green in a trade for Lillard. James Wiseman and Golden State's two first-round picks in the 2021 NBA Draft (7, 14) would likely be the centerpiece of a deal, with Andrew Wiggins being included to match salary. It wouldn't come as a huge surprise if Lillard had interest in the Warriors, as he was born in Oakland.
The New York Knicks are an interesting option, giving Lillard an opportunity to be the face of one of the league's most storied franchises. The Knicks will have enough cap space to absorb Lillard's contract, which would give the Blazers a massive trade exception in return. (There's a world in which the Knicks acquire Lillard and still have cap space to make another move in free agency, which is scary to think about). The Knicks also have some intriguing young talent they could offer the Blazers in RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley and Mitchell Robinson.
The Toronto Raptors are always a team to keep an eye on. In addition to the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Raptors have three players under contract for the foreseeable future who would likely be of interest to teams around the league if they were made available in Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. Plus, Raptors president Masai Ujiri made it clear at the end of the season that his focus is on winning another championship. Given his track record, the Raptors can't ever be counted out.
Three other teams that deserve mention: New Orleans Pelicans, Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets. The Pelicans have Brandon Ingram and a treasure trove of picks, the Celtics have one of the league's best rising stars in Jaylen Brown, and the Nuggets have a couple of potential building blocks in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.