Portland Trailblazers All-NBA guard Damian Lillard recently expressed publicly his displeasure with the organization — a move that, in the contemporary NBA, has often proven a prelude to an exodus.
In other words, due to the Blazers handling of their recent coaching search and the fact that they haven’t been able to put together a championship-caliber team in his nine years in Portland, Lillard might be looking for a change of scenery. Enter the Golden State Warriors.
The Dubs are liable to be mentioned in any and all trade rumors for big names this offseason, as Klay Thompson returns from two years sidelined due to injury and the team’s Big 3 looks to gear up for another run at the NBA Finals. The Warriors have plenty of young assets to dangle in a potential superstar trade, including sophomore big man James Wiseman along with both the No. 7 and No. 14 picks in the upcoming NBA draft.
But with several stars potentially on the move from their current locations, including the Washington Wizards Bradley Beal, the Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam and the Philadelphia 76ers Ben Simmons, the relevant questions about Lillard revolve around his fit with the Warriors and his contract’s fit with the team’s already strained salary cap.
Warriors Could Make Contracts Work in Potential Trade For Lillard
Lillard has four years and $176 million left on his contract with Portland, which would be a difficult amount of money for the Warriors to absorb into what is already the league’s most expensive roster. However, if Golden State were to include Andrew Wiggins in a theoretical deal with the Trailblazers, the math would work out.
NBC Sports has reported that according to ESPN’s trade machine, a trade that included the two years and $65 million remaining on Wiggins’ contract would allow the teams to meet the contractual requirements the NBA mandates for such an agreement.
But Wiggins alone likely falls far short of what the Blazers would want to part with Lillard, who is arguably one of the ten best players in the league. Including Wiseman and one, or both, of the Warriors’ first round picks in the upcoming draft might be enough to overwhelm any other offers Portland will field.
That potential package begs the question of how much Lillard is worth to Golden State, particularly considering the makeup of the team as it currently stands?
Does Lillard Fit With a Successful Warriors’ Future?
If the Brooklyn Nets have proven anything with their acquisitions of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, it’s that there is no such thing as too much talent on one team — even if a collection of stars represent some redundant skill sets.
Lillard is a ball-dominant point guard, often compared to Steph Curry in both style of play and level of talent. The two on the floor together feels like it could be too much of a good thing, as the presence of one dilutes, to a degree, that of the other.
However, Curry has shown a propensity to play successfully off the ball, something Lillard could theoretically do as well, especially considering both are elite shooters from beyond the arc.
Thompson is already used to playing without the ball until it’s time to hit a big three-point shot, and Draymond Green has always been willing to defer to the superior offensive prowess of his backcourt teammates.
A squad pairing Lillard with the Warriors’ Big 3 would be devastating from an offensive perspective. Curry shoots 43.3% from deep for his career, while Lillard boasts a mark of 37.5%. Thompson also shoots 41.9% from distance.
So while the defense in this hypothetical Warriors’ backcourt would be problematic to say the least, on a good shooting night it is difficult to imagine most teams in the NBA able to keep pace with the Lillard/Curry/Thompson trio.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to Lillard ending up back in the Bay Area, where the star guard grew up, is that the Blazers would likely be hesitant to trade their best player to a major conference rival. However, if Portland does end up dealing Lillard, the franchise will have to start over from scratch, and the heap of young assets the Warriors could offer might just do the trick.