Another day, another Damian Lillard trade rumor. While no one knows for sure if the six-time All-Star really wants out of Portland, the speculation continues to dominant the internet. And five teams have emerged as the leading candidates to land him.
The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor listed the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets as the “most aggressive suitors” for Lillard. He doesn’t indicate specific players, but Ben Simmons’ name was mentioned in all scenarios. The enigmatic Sixers point guard has been linked to several teams this offseason and could be the linchpin of trade for Lillard or Trail Blazers teammate C.J. McCollum.
If the Heat wants in on the action, they would likely have to part ways with Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and a slew of future picks. Remember, Miami doesn’t own any first or second-round picks in this year’s draft. Portland is going to want a James Harden-type haul to even get the conversation started on Lillard, per O’Connor. He wrote the following:
Front-office executives say that if the Blazers eventually move Lillard, they can expect a return rivaling or surpassing what the Nets gave up for James Harden: multiple young players, plus three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps.
Harden is a former MVP, but he had only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade. Portland could do even better because Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract worth a grand total of $176 million. The long-term security in Lillard’s contract could lead to more interest from teams and more return in a trade.
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Lillard Sheds Doubt on Trade Request
Perhaps the most important piece to the puzzle is Lillard’s wishes. The 2013 Rookie of the Year has yet to formally request a trade and deflected questions about his future during a recent media session at pre-Olympic exhibition play. In fact, Lillard admitted that he always thought he’d be a Trail Blazer for life.
“Right now I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Lillard said, via Forbes. “What I can say is my intentions and my heart has always been set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But I think over time, you want to win it all. And I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers uniform. But we all have to be making strides toward that.”
Sixers, Knicks Headline Star’s List
Washington Wizards reporter Quinton Mayo wrote that the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers headline Lillard’s shortlist of trade destinations. It’s tough to discern how much insider knowledge he might have about the situation.
The Knicks and Sixers do make a lot of sense for Lillard. Both are young teams in win-now mode coming off promising postseason runs. Plus, Portland would be more likely to ship Lillard to an Eastern Conference contender than keep him in the West where they would have to play against him.