There is plenty of speculation about Damian Lillard’s future, and ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith believes LeBron James is ready to pounce if the superstar changes course by demanding a trade. Lillard’s cryptic Instagram message after another Blazers’ first-round exit prompted plenty of speculation about the point guard.
“’How long should I stay dedicated? How long til opportunity meet preparation’- @nipseyhussle,” Lillard said on Instagram.
The Blazers fired Terry Stotts shortly after this post kicking off what is sure to be a critical offseason for Portland. Smith sees James finding another star to join him with the Lakers this offseason and believes Lillard would be the top candidate if he ends up demanding a trade.
“Well, they [Blazers] better handle their business, because, listen, let me tell you something right now, LeBron’s already out there,” Smith said on a June 5th episode of First Take. “He’s going to try to recruit, he’s going to try to recruit. You know they’re going to try to get somebody to L.A., there’s no question about it. Again, we’ve already spent time talking about Damian Lillard. What if Damian Lillard ended up changing his mind? He’s told me for years he ain’t interested. What if he changed his mind and decides he wants to go to the Lakers? What if he changed his mind? I mean, it would change everything.”
The Lakers Need to Trade A.D. for Any Deal Involving Dame
For those picturing a Lakers big three involving Lillard, Anthony Davis would need to be included in a hypothetical trade for the Blazers superstar for two key reasons as Heavy has documented several times this offseason. The obvious factor is there is nothing the Lakers could offer the Blazers that would be remotely appealing for Lillard outside of James or Davis. Secondly, Davis would need to be included to match Lillard’s $39.3 million salary next season. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that opposing teams are looking for an “opening to make trade offers” for Lillard.
“Sources say several NBA teams — including those in the top markets — are already intensely monitoring this situation in Portland and how it develops to look for an opening to make trade offers,” Charania detailed.
Smith on Lillard: ‘Who Knows What the Lakers Might Try to Do?’
All this has Smith believing the Lakers will be watching the Lillard situation closely. If there is an opening this offseason, we can expect the Lakers to at least explore a potential deal but chances of this happening remain slim.
“Just had somebody reach out to me, one of the players. Apparently, a lot of people have been eliminated over the last couple of days as you all know and as a result, especially when Damian Lillard got eliminated last night, several calls have come their way,” Smith explained on ESPN. “You got a lot of teams, about six or seven different teams, who believe they can get their hands on him [Lillard]. They think they’ve got a shot. One of them includes the Knicks, who is scheduled to have about $75 million in cap space along with some picks, but also the Clippers, the Miami Heat and who knows what the Lakers may try to do. Stay tuned, the Damian Lillard news could ultimately be percolating a little bit sooner than later, much to my surprise.”
James may be recruiting but the Lakers have a lot of hurdles to clear to land a third star. Los Angeles does not have cap space to sign a major free agent outright and the team has very few players under contract making a sign-and-trade for interested players complicated. It will be interesting to see if Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka can pull off a surprise move this offseason with pressure mounting after a disappointing first-round exit. While Lillard is a long shot for the Lakers, we can expect James to be working behind the scenes to help the team land a significant piece this offseason.