Proposed Nets Trade Adds Blazers’ Damian Lillard in $270 Million Haul

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Brooklyn Nets are in an interesting space right now.

On the one hand, they are a team in need of a true superstar, even if Mikal Bridges showed a lot of positives in his brief cameo as the de facto top option.

But getting that star is going to cost, though, especially if the target is Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard according to an anonymous Eastern Conference general manager in a conversation with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.

“Portland is looking to move on (from Jusuf Nurkic), and if you are going to have Lillard in a blockbuster kind of trade, you’d like to clear your sheet as much as possible,” the GM tells Heavy Sports. “Put (Nurkic) into a deal and you have some more flexibility in terms of what you’re getting back, and you can get yourself really set up for rebuilding.”

Nets get:

– Damian Lillard
– Jusuf Nurkic

Blazers get:

Nic Claxton
Dorian Finney-Smith
Ben Simmons
– 1st Rd Pick(s)

“Insisting a team take back Nurkic would allow the Blazers to do a trade with the Nets that could land them Ben Simmons, Dorian Finney-Smith (who could be traded to a third team), and 24-year-old Nic Claxton, plus draft assets,” Deveney adds.

Lillard, 32, is coming off his best season as a pro averaging career-highs with 32.2 points per game on 64.5% true shooting adding 7.3 assists, 4.8 rebounds, and nearly 1.0 steals per game.

The seven-time All-Star and All-NBA selection did say he expects to be a Blazer next season.

He has also missed 91 games over the last four seasons including 24 this past season.

Injuries are a concern for Nurkic, 28, too. He posted a 13.3/9.1/2.9 line this past season but has not made more than 56 appearances in any season over the last four seasons. He has added the three-ball to his repertoire, knocking down 36.1% of a career-high 2.3 attempts this past season, and averaged 1.3 blocks per game from 2015 through the 2020 season.

Still, his health matters since the Nets have already talked about needing to add to their frontcourt as it is currently constructed. Third-year big man Day’Ron Sharpe did flash some promise down the stretch, though.

It is also unclear how valuable the draft assets Brooklyn has are since they do not control their own until the 2028 season.

The first-round picks they own all come from teams looking to remain competitive.

Brooklyn is Fast Approaching the Luxury Tax

This deal would add roughly $2.5 million in salary for Brooklyn who enters the offseason $15.6 million below the luxury tax line and with several key decisions to make most notably restricted free agent Cameron Johnson who could command up to $20 million to retain.

Lillard signed a two-year, $122 million contract extension in July 2022 effectively giving him a four-year, $216 million deal while Nurkic is going into Year 2 of a four-year, $70 million pact.

The Blazers’ duo has over $270 million combined coming to them over the life of their contracts.

Simmons, 26, appeared in just 42 games this past season averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists. He is on a four-year, $177 million contract and still due more than $78 million over the next two seasons with no outs either via team or player option so Brooklyn’s best bet has long been thought to get him healthy and simply go from there.

Likewise, Finney-Smith has been the subject of trade rumors

The Nets are expected to move at least one of him or fellow veteran wing Royce O’Neale this offseason in part to alleviate some of their cap concerns as they prioritize Johnson.

Nets Don’t Have to Add Claxton

Claxton, 24, is a sweetener and replacement for Nurkic in this deal, not a financial necessity to satisfy league rules. The former No. 31 overall pick enjoyed a breakout 2023 campaign, leading the NBA in field goal percentage and finishing tied for second in blocks per game. He averaged 12.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists this past season with 2.5 blocks and 0.9 steals.

All of those were career-high marks.

He’s also still on the books at a team-friendly (relative to his production) $8.7 million salary in 2023-24, though he is going into the final year of a two-year, $17.2 million contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after next season.

There was a report from SportsNet New York’s Ian Begley that the Toronto Raptors had an interest in Claxton in trade talks at this year’s deadline.

The Nets were linked to both OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam at the time. If Brooklyn can manufacture any way around adding Claxton to this deal, they should push for it in hopes of keeping enough of the younger core around Lillard that they don’t crater when he is out or when he eventually calls it a career.

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