While Lillard has yet to formally request an exit out of Portland, the end may soon be upon us. From four first-round playoff exits over the last five seasons to a cryptic social media post to his request to hire Jason Kidd not coming to fruition, the signs are piling up.
“He [Lillard] had that Instagram post right after the loss that seemed to suggest he’s getting really frustrated with the outcomes of these playoff series,” Mannix told WEEI’s Tanguay and Hart. “He wants Jason Kidd [to coach] there. He wants to be in Portland, he’s always said that. But there is definitely a league-wide sense that that team had plateaued.”
If things ultimately go south between Lillard and the Blazers, there will undoubtedly be a plethora of teams lining up in hopes of yielding the services of the NBA’s third-leading scorer (28.8 points per game). One of the teams could very well be the Boston Celtics, who Mannix believes are in a “good position” to swing a deal for the six-time All-Star.
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Celtics the Ideal Trade Partner for Portland?
While the Celtics may be in a “good position” to pursue Lillard, doing so would almost certainly come at the expense of losing one of their franchise cornerstones — a decision that new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens may have to ultimately come to terms with.
“You could put Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece of a deal that would include all the young guys on your roster plus future draft picks as well,” Mannix said. “So I think it’s possible. If Portland shops him, Boston is going to be in a good position. If you look around, Bradley Beal is not going to go to Portland because he’s not going to re-sign there. You have to get guys to Portland that are on long-term contracts, and Jaylen Brown is one of those young guys, 24 years old, that would fit that bill.”
Repercussions From a Potential Lillard Deal
Brown, who is coming off a career season where he averaged personal bests in both points (24.7) and assists (3.4), is far from the only Celtic that would likely be on the move were such a blockbuster to go down. Lillard would serve as a sizeable upgrade over Kemba Walker, likely leading to a Beantown exit for the latter. Defensive stalwart Marcus Smart, who Bleacher Report recently labeled the team’s best trade chip, could also get caught in the crossfire.
It’s undoubtedly quite a lot to forfeit if you are Boston. This is especially true when you take into account Lillard’s age — he turns 31 in July — and salary after inking a max contract extension through 2025. Yet, at the same time, the Celtics are undoubtedly in need of a semi-roster overhaul, and adding one of the league’s premier talents is a quick way of doing so.