While there may not be a full-fledged fire just yet, there is certainly a ton of smoke surrounding the Brooklyn Nets and Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, who was in attendance for Game 3 at the Barclays Center. Some expect Lillard to seek a trade this offseason and there might not be a better time to strike than this offseason when both teams’ rosters figure to be in for some degree of change.
“I can see the Nets going for Dame, but he’s older, and that contract is so high,” an NBA executive told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “He could be worth a couple of firsts and a good young player.”
Per Scotto, another executive said, “Dame would be the leader they (Nets) need.”
Lillard is a known fan of both Bridges and Johnson whom he saw plenty of when they were in the Western Conference with the Phoenix Suns. He was also spotted partying with Bridges in a video posted to Twitter on April 15.
“Cam Johnson is nice and Mikal Bridges is my favorite small forward in the league,” Lillard said in an interview with Chris Haynes for Yahoo Sports in 2021.
For their part, Bridges and Johnson are not shying away from the connection.
Damian Lillard Putting Pressure on Blazers
Lillard has recently put increasing public pressure on the Blazers’ front office to pick a lane.
He has long resisted even hinting at the threat of asking for a trade following previous disappointing campaigns. But, to the executive’s point, the 32-year-old seven-time All-Star knows that he doesn’t have forever in this league even coming off arguably his best season as a pro.
Along with more physicality rebounding the basketball, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn made a point to mention a player capable of consistently getting downhill and putting pressure on the defense.
Lillard, known for his tremendous deep-shot making is also adept at attacking the rim.
But things might not be as cut and dry since there is some disagreement in what Lillard’s value would be on the trade market.
Nets Might Not Have Enough Assets to Trade for Damian Lillard
“I’m just not sure they have the pieces to get him,” one of the execs told Scotto. “The picks they have coming in aren’t great. It would probably take Ben Simmons’ contract to make the numbers work, but you’d have to attach picks to him on top of the picks you need for Lillard.”
Simmons, sidelined since the All-Star break after just 42 appearances, is owed more than $78 million through 2026. He was not performing up to his contract even when he was healthy enough to take the floor this season leaving former Nets’ assistant general manager and current ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks to list Simmons as the top priority this offseason.
“Getting a healthy and playable Simmons continues to be the main priority for a second consecutive offseason,” Marks wrote alluding to Simmons’ aborted 2022 campaign.
Brooklyn got back a hefty haul of picks in the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades but, due to their own blockbuster acquisition of James Harden in 2021, don’t control their own picks. Nets general manager Sean Marks doesn’t think that will totally hinder them though.
“Ultimately, numerous teams around the league will keep an eye on Lillard,” Scotto writes speculating on the interest in Lillard adding they “could outbid the Nets for his services should a bidding war arise.”
Still, one of the executives told Scotto the Nets “should try” to land Lillard.