The NBA season is now upon us but the rumor mill has not slowed down one bit. Trades are a big part of the NBA season and we’ll likely be hearing a lot about them considering Jimmy Butler wasn’t traded in the offseason.
Another team trade winds swirl around seemingly year after year is the Portland Trail Blazers and their star backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Many believe the team may have topped out last year by finishing third in the Western Conference with 49 wins. This resulted in getting swept by the New Orleans Pelicans and started an offseason with many questions.
Damian Lillard, who dabbled as a reporter during the offseason, is often the subject of trade rumors as he’s a star player playing for what’s been considered to be a small market. Smaller market teams have often had trouble keeping and paying their star players. As a result, whether the team has any intention or not trading him or not, there will always be whispers.
In a recent piece by The Ringer, Kevin O’Connor says McCollum would be the most likely option to be moved if the team does decide to part ways with one part of its backcourt. He argues the team is a playoff bubble team and have little ways to improve outside of making a trade. Here’s what he writes:
There have always been whispers in league circles that Portland should break up the Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum duo, but there has been no indication it will. Portland is a playoff bubble team, though, and has few other avenues to make noteworthy changes. To make a leap, a breakup could be necessary, and could yield a significant return considering Lillard and McCollum aren’t free agents until 2021. Lillard remains the face of the Blazers, so McCollum should be the player more likely to be moved. But the Blazers would also need to consider which player is more likely to stick around once they both hit free agency in 2021. Portland has more intel about that than anyone else. But we do know that Lillard, on multiple occasions, has made comments that suggest he has a wandering eye.
As mentioned, both players are signed for years to come so if a trade is coming then it’ll likely require a strong return since these players have a lot of team control going forward.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe mentioned Lillard would be a perfect fit next to LeBron James. The Lakers, who the Blazers open against tonight, have a lot of young talent to offer the Blazers if a trade were to happen. It’s very likely the Blazers would focus on Lonzo Ball as a swap of point guards would benefit both teams in the short term and the long term. Here’s what Lowe wrote about LeBron and Lillard.
The most enticing mega-trade on the board not involving Anthony Davis: Lillard to the Lakers for a package centered around Lonzo Ball. Lillard is a perfect fit next to LeBron, and LeBron respects Lillard’s game, per sources familiar with the matter. The Lakers could absorb Lillard into cap space this summer without sending out giant matching salaries — salaries they don’t have on the books.
The Lakers are starting the season with Ball coming off the bench and putting veteran point guard Rajon Rondo in the starting role. The Lakers have a lot to gain by acquiring Lillard and that would effectively put the team into the upper echelon of Western Conference teams if LeBron and Lillard were on the same team together.
For right now all of this just sounds like a pipe dream. However, if either team struggles out of the gate we might see trade talks begin to ramp up. Currently, it looks like the Blazers plan on rolling with what they have and seeing where the season takes them.