Proposed Trade Sees Celtics Finally Land $176 Million Superstar

Damian Lillard, Boston Celtics

Getty Damian Lillard, Boston Celtics

When the Boston Celtics ducked below the luxury tax line at the February 14 trade deadline, Brad Stevens’ mantra of financial flexibility rung true.

Here was a Celtics team who had just acquired Derrick White and Daniel Theis but still managed to save tax payments in the process. The idea behind these moves was that it would improve the Celtics in the immediate, but allow them to enter trade discussions should the opportunity to land a star player arise.

When speaking to Heavy.com, one NBA executive noted that Stevens may have his eye on Damian Lillard, who is rumored to be disgruntled with his current situation in Portland.

“Brad has a soft spot for him, I know. He is a favorite of his. Small college guy, such a hard worker. They have put themselves in a position to make a move like that. They can build a package around Derrick White and Marcus Smart, with Theis and Nesmith and a pick,” The executive said.

The Former All-NBA guard is currently out of the Portland Trail Blazers rotation as he recovers from surgery, but despite his timetable stating he could be fit before the end of the season, it seems that we won’t see Lillard on an NBA court any time soon.


Lillard May Cost More Than White, Smart & Filler

The issue with trading for a superstar such as Lillard is that you never really know what the asking price is going to be. Some teams want young prospects and draft picks as they embrace a full rebuild, while others want a star player in return, similar to how the Philadelphia 76ers played their hand with Ben Simmons.

“I don’t know that Portland could do better than what Boston could offer if it comes down to that. I mean, Lillard is 31 now, and with the injuries, he is not going to get the superstar package he might have drawn in the past. If you can get a couple of guys like Smart and White and some picks, you might have to do that if you are Portland,” The executive said.

What limits Portland’s ability to demand extortionate amounts for Lillard is his contract. According to Spotrac, the 31-year-old guard is due to make $42 million next season, $45 million in 2023, and $48 million should he pick up his player option in 2024 when he will be 34-years-old.

Most teams are going to be wary of trading for a player who is already showing signs of wear and tear when they have that level of guaranteed money in the coming years. You only need to look at John Wall and Russell Westbrook to see that overpaying high-usage guards is risky business, especially if they have hundreds of miles on the clock already.


Does Lillard Fit Udoka’s System?

Another concern that Celtics fans should have, is whether or not Lillard fits Ime Udoka’s offensive system, or whether adding the star guard could trigger a descent back into your turn my turn isolation basketball.

Luckily Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are used to playing alongside high-usage guards with a score-first mentality. But things are different now, this is clearly Tatum and Brown’s team, and expecting them to take a step back in the hierarchy to appease Lillard could somewhat upset the applecart.

The upside to adding Lillard is the Celtics would be adding a proven, veteran talent alongside Tatum and Robert Williams, and a player who genuinely wants to win a championship before the curtain comes down on his career. However, as currently constructed, the Celtics are designed to sit among the Eastern Conference elite for the foreseeable future, but moving on from Brown and multiple role players would drastically shorten that window.

Of course, when a player of Lillard’s ability becomes available, you should at least explore potential trade options. But if that trade doesn’t allow you to keep both your star wings, then it may be too high of a cost for a guard that is already showing signs of decline. Hopefully, we find a resolution to this saga during the summer.

 

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