🚨🚨 Damian Lillard Reportedly Set to Request Trade: Where’s He Headed?

It’s been rumored since the Blazers’ season ended last month, but now it appears to be happening. This comes via Henry Abbott of True Hoop:

Fifty-five is a ridiculous number of points to score in an NBA game, no matter how many shots you take. Just 45 days ago, Blazers guard Damian Lillard—thanks to 12 3s, and 90 percent free-throw shooting—managed it while taking just 24 shots. It might have been the finest scoring performance in NBA history. 

But the Blazers lost that game to the Nuggets. That game cemented a narrative: The Blazers aren’t good enough for Lillard.

Now a source close to Lillard says that in the days to come, he plans to request a trade.

The most certain thing in Blazerworld is that Lillard’s value is sky high around the NBA. He’s the preferred teammate of half the league, and a constant presence in trade speculation from the 76ers, Knicks, Warriors, and beyond. 

Lillard’s value is so high that, in weeks past, the word from well-placed sources has been that Lillard simply would not be traded for two reasons: He won’t be a free agent until 2024, so he has little leverage. Having him on the roster helps the team valuation as Allen prepares to sell.

That math may have changed. The primary thing pushing down the team’s valuation, if sold today, is the appearance of broad disarray. Imagine being some billionaire planning to shell out a couple of billion for a sports team, and knowing the moment you did Stephen A. Smith would be on TV saying you had taken over a joke of a franchise? Billionaires can be ever-so sensitive.

Also: imagine if the team doesn’t trade Lillard, and then—like Anthony Davis in New Orleans—things become untenable. What new-to-the-NBA billionaire wants their first move to be ripping the heart out of Rip City? It’s easy to picture suitors to purchase the team asking Jody Allen to first stabilize the franchise.

You can see why Lillard is saying it’s About That Time.

So it’s going to happen. Dame’s days as a Blazer are coming to an end.

Abbott brings up a good point: if Jody Allen is planning on selling the team, I can’t imagine the person who buys the team will want to inherit this mess. They’ll probably say to Allen: “You have to trade Lillard first so that I can start over with a clean slate here.”

I’ve been saying it for weeks now: Dame is 31 and needs to get to a Championship-contender ASAP. He’s too great a talent to waste away in Portland. He’s had many great years and some unforgettable moments in Portland, but clearly that organization is unable to surround him with Championship-level talent. So it’s time for them to go their separate ways.

So who could trade for him? Well, there’s not many teams in the league that wouldn’t want him. But I’m guessing Dame himself will have some say in the matter here because Portland isn’t going to want to do him dirty. As much as they’re going to be heartbroken about him requesting a trade, I’m sure the Blazers front office knows it’s the right thing to do. He’s given them everything he possibly could; they know he’s getting up there in age and wants a real shot at a ring; and they know that they’ve failed him.

They can’t possibly hold this against him. I highly doubt they’re going to spite him and send him to like the Thunder or the Magic or some basketball wasteland.

So Dame will probably present the Blazers with a list of teams he’d like to be traded to, or maybe he has one team in mind. I don’t know. But I have a feeling, like with James Harden in Houston and Anthony Davis in New Orleans, who made it clear which team(s) they wanted to be traded to and then got traded there, Damian Lillard will get what he wants.

With all that said, where might Dame end up?

I keep hearing the Warriors. The Warriors would, I guess, offer James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins and two lottery picks. And that is somehow supposed to be enough for Damian Fucking Lillard.

To me, that’s just ridiculous. If I’m the Blazers, I laugh in their faces and tell them to call me back when they have a serious offer. Portland is going to build their future around James Wiseman? Get out here. This is still a wing-driven league, and I’m sorry, I like James Wiseman as a talent, but he is not the centerpiece of a Championship team.

Wiggins I actually think would be a decently-attractive trade piece for a lot of teams, but not for Portland, because Wiggins is making like $26 million a year. Where would the Blazers really be going with a core of CJ McCollum, Wiggins and James Wiseman? That team doesn’t even make the playoffs in the West, but at the same time, they’re not bad enough to vie for the top draft pick. You’re in between, and that’s not ideal.

And the lottery picks? Are those supposed to be attractive? Golden State has the 7th pick this year. Doesn’t really move the needle for me. Keon Johnson is projected to go #7, or maybe even Alperen Sengun, an 18-year-old center from Turkey. I’m sure the Blazers are salivating at the idea of getting one of those guys!

Get real: there’s a massive drop-off in talent in this year’s draft after the 4th pick. Any pick outside the top-four is just not all that valuable. The top four guys–Cade Cunninham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs–are in a class of their own. The 7th pick just isn’t that attractive.

The Warriors also have the 14th pick this year, and I’m assuming that would be offered along with the 7th pick, but again, just like with the 7th pick, you’re not getting a franchise-level player at that draft spot. If I’m trading Damian Lillard away, I want a really high draft pick that I can turn into a player I’ll be able to build around for years to come. And it’s very rare to find those guys outside of the top 3-4 picks.

People are under this impression that the Warriors front office is filled with Super Geniuses who can pull off the impossible. Like the Warriors have this magical power where they can get any player they want just because they’re the Warriors.

I think it all stems from them getting Kevin Durant in 2016. Ever since then, people just think the Warriors have this singular ability to make anything they want happen.

Do people not know the truth about why Golden State was able to get Kevin Durant? It wasn’t because the Warriors are just plain smarter than everybody else and Silicon Valley and Google and tech and stuff. It’s because the NBA’s new TV deal led to a massive spike in the salary cap for that offseason and that offseason alone that allowed the Warriors to miraculously have enough cap space for KD.

Look at the massive jump after the 2016 season–it goes from $70 million to $94 million:

You can clearly see when the new TV deal money kicked in, and conveniently it was the very same offseason that Kevin Durant became a free agent.

Okay, you might be thinking, “But the Warriors were still smarter than everybody because they timed it just right!”

Also not entirely the case. Yes, they were in the right place at the right time, but it was largely due to good luck (on their part) and bad luck (on Steph Curry’s part) that they had the salary cap space available that offseason.

Steph Curry was criminally underpaid until 2018, his ninth season in the league. Steph was something of a late-bloomer in that he was drafted in 2009, but injuries early in his career kept him from really breaking out until about 2014. So this meant that because it took him ~5 years to become the All-NBA talent he is today, his second deal that he signed with Golden State was nowhere near the type of second deal we see other superstars ink.

In his first MVP season, 2015, when the Warriors won the Championship, Steph Curry was only earning $10.6 million. In their 73-win season, in which Curry won unanimous MVP, he was only making $11.3 million. Those numbers don’t even come close to what the top players in the league were making at the time–and, given that Curry won back-to-back MVPs, he was clearly one of the top players in the league:

This is the top-10 for 2016:

So clearly Steph Curry was massively underpaid for those years. He was making probably half, or even less than half, of what he should’ve been making based on his performance. And the whole reason for it was because ankle injuries early in his career dramatically lowered the amount of money he was able to make on his second contract. There was no Warriors front office 200IQ Galaxy Brain wheeling and dealing at work. They just got lucky that they had a top-3 player in the league at a 50% discount.

And Curry wasn’t eligible for a new deal until the 2017 offseason, when the team had already signed KD. So after the 2017 season, the Warriors signed Curry to a supermax and he started making $34+ mil a year.

There were two main reasons the Warriors were able to sign KD: the post-2016 salary cap spike due to the NBA’s new TV deal, and Steph Curry being criminally underpaid until his ninth season in the league.

And Bob Myers, the Warriors GM who everyone can’t stop praising and calling the smartest guy in the league: he didn’t even draft Steph Curry. That was way before he even arrived in Golden State. Curry was drafted in 2009, Myers was hired as the Warriors’ assistant GM in April 2011, and became the GM in April 2012. So he wasn’t even the guy running the show when the Warriors drafted Klay Thompson in 2011, either.

I’ll give Myers credit for taking Draymond Green in the second round in 2012, but even that was a lucky pick. It is absolutely unheard of for a second-round pick to have the career Draymond Green had. He’s one of the greatest second round picks in NBA history, behind obviously Nikola Jokic, but right up there in contention for #2 with Manu Ginobili, Khris Middleton, Marc Gasol and Gilbert Arenas. Finding a player like Draymond Green in the second round is a once-in-every-three-years kind of thing.

Anyways, I know I went on a long detour there but it had to be said. For years everyone has just been fawning over Bob Myers as if he’s the greatest GM of all time, but it’s simply a myth. People think the Warriors can flip James Wiseman and Andrew Wiggins for Dame Lillard just because the Warriors have Bob Myers, and the guy can sell water to a well, right?

No, the Warriors will not be able to steal Dame just because they have Bob Myers. If it was the Lakers or the Bulls or some other team offering James Wiseman, Andrew Wiggins, this year’s #7 pick, a 2023 first rounder and a 2027 first rounder for Damian Lillard, people would be laughing that out of the room.

Just stop with this nonsense. The Warriors don’t play by a different set of rules than everybody else.

Besides, I don’t think Dame would want to play with Steph. Of all the superstar players in the league, Steph and Dame are viewed as the most similar: undersized guards who can shoot the ball like nobody else in history. I think there’s something of a low-key rivalry between Steph and Dame, honestly. Not that they don’t like each other or anything like that, but I could absolutely see Dame having a bit of jealousy or resentment towards Steph simply because Steph has been in a much better situation than Dame and gotten way more love and recognition because of it. I’ll bet Dame thinks he’s every bit as good as Steph, but Steph gets the rings and the praise because he has had way better teammates throughout his career.

Steph had KD and Klay and Draymond, and Steve Kerr, while Dame had CJ McCollum and 36-year-old Melo. I’ll bet in private, Dame and everybody in his inner-circle have a little bit of resentment towards Steph.

Plus, on top of that, Dame is from the Bay. That’s his hometown. And now Steph is the Golden Boy there. Dame probably feels like if he and Steph traded places, Dame would be winning MVPs and rings, and Steph would be the one dropping 55 and still losing in the first round.

I just don’t think Dame would want to team up with Steph Curry. Because even if they do win a ring together, there will be the conversation, “Well, this is Steph’s team and Dame was the #2 guy.” No way does Dame want to go down in history as Steph Curry’s Robin–especially not in Dame’s hometown.

I really cannot see Dame wanting to play alongside Steph. Again, I’m not saying he legitimately hates Steph Curry or anything like that, but I’ll bet he privately resents him and considers him lucky. Dame wants to win a ring and probably go through Steph in the process, ideally. Dame wants to show the world that he’s every bit as good, if not better, than Steph. And you can’t do that as Steph Curry’s Robin.

So I don’t think Dame will end up in Golden State. I don’t think the Warriors’ trade package is attractive from the Blazers’ point of view, and I don’t think Dame has any interest at all in playing for the Warriors with Steph. I could be totally wrong, but I don’t think so.

Who else could trade for Dame? Colin Cowherd said the Warriors, but I’ve just gone into great detail why I think that’s never going to happen. Colin is one of those guys who just worships Bob Myers and the tech industry and thinks because Facebook is headquartered in the Bay Area it means the Warriors have the ability to Force Trade like it’s 2K.

Colin also said the Clippers, and while it’s not as bad an idea as the Warriors, but it’s still a bad idea. He didn’t get into much detail, but it was basically Dame for Paul George. I’m sure there would be other guys thrown in there along with Paul George, but there’s no draft picks because the Clippers don’t have any to offer. They traded them all to OKC to get Paul George.

Hey, if the Clippers could flip Paul George for Dame, I think that’s a win for them. But let’s not act like Paul George is garbage: he’s not quite on the same level as Dame, but he’s close. Dame is a top-10 player, Paul George is like a top-15 player, maybe top-20 at the very worst. I’d put him in the 14-17 range personally. The Clippers are definitely getting better if they replace PG13 with Dame, but I don’t know that they’re getting significantly better. Dame, after all, isn’t nearly the defender Paul George is.

But for Portland, what’s the appeal of getting Paul George? You might make the playoffs, but you might not. With Paul George, CJ McCollum and Nurkic, the Blazers would be a lower-seeded team, probably play-in tournament. They would not be Championship-caliber.

So what’s the point? If you can’t win a Championship, just blow it up. That’s the way I look at it. If you can’t win a Championship and you know it, then what are you actually doing? Just trying to be marginally competitive and hope the fans are delusional and still come to the games? Fans aren’t stupid. You can’t trick them; they’ll know it’s not a Championship roster. Teams sell out the arena when the fans think they have a chance to win a Championship, but at this point, it’s clear the Blazers are not a Championship team. Swapping Dame for Paul George does nothing to change that.

Plus, for the Clippers, after what Paul George did in the playoffs after Kawhi went down, are they really going to cut ties with him like that? They just signed him to a massive extension last offseason. He’s totally redeemed himself for his high-profile failures in the bubble.

Why would you want to move off of Paul George if you’re the Clippers? He got you to Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals without Kawhi. I’ll bet everyone in the Clippers building believes that if Kawhi hadn’t torn his ACL, they’d be not only in the Finals right now but leading it and favorites to win it. They’re good enough to win a Championship right now as it is. Why would you want to mess with that?

And now that Kawhi has just had ACL repair surgery, the 2022 season is basically over before it started for the Clippers. They’re not winning it next season. They should just run it back and shoot for 2023 as their year to get it done.

I get that Dame is better than PG13, but I highly doubt it would be a straight up swap of Paul George for Kawhi. The Clippers would have to give up more than just Paul George, and at that point, given that Paul George is like almost on Dame’s level but not quite, when you talk about adding in role players, it’s fair to ask if the Clippers would actually get worse overall with this trade.

The Clippers’ role players came up huge in these playoffs. They probably have the deepest roster in the league with Reggie Jackson (likely gone as a free agent), Marcus Morris, Terrance Mann, Pat Bev, Rondo and Nicolas Batum. The Blazers will definitely demand Terrance Mann in the trade, at a minimum. So now we’re talking about the Clippers giving up Paul George, probably Terrance Mann, and possibly one other role player. I don’t know. I would say for the Clippers, as great as Dame is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It’s basically the same reason I wrote, in a prior post, that the Lakers should not trade AD for Dame. It’s not quite a lateral move, but it’s close enough to it that it might not be worth the hassle.

Now, if the Clippers could somehow add Dame without giving up Paul George, then we’re talking. But that is not going to happen.

Next:

The Knicks have pieces they could offer, for sure. But I don’t know, I have my doubts that this is true. This just smells like the New York media making shit up because they assume everyone else has as big of a hard-on for New York as they do. The New York media assumes every player wants to play in New York, and that New York just flat-out deserves to get all the good players because New York is the greatest city in the world, the Mecca of Basketball, yada yada yada.

I just don’t see Dame as a Knicks kind of guy, honestly. I don’t think he’d work well with Thibs. And I’m sorry, but if you think Dame, Julius Randle and Derrick Rose are winning the East, you’re high. It’ll be like Portland all over again for Dame. They’re not beating Brooklyn, they’re not beating Milwaukee.

Plus, the Knicks have the worst owner in pro sports. That’s not just me saying that, it’s what New York sports fans themselves have been saying for over a decade. There’s even a song out there called “Sell the Team”:

James Dolan is so universally reviled in New York that even a former US Congressman from Staten Island said Dolan was a “disgrace” and should sell the team “tomorrow.”

Why would Dame “have his eyes” on the Knicks? Does that seem true to you? Just because the Knicks made the playoffs for the first time in 8 years does not mean things are suddenly all good for them. They got gentlemen-swept by the Hawks in the first round.

The Knicks are a typical Thibodeu team: they hustle in the regular season and win a decent amount of games just because they’re playing harder than everyone else, and playing their stars massive minutes, but then, when they get to the playoffs, where everybody plays hard, they get exposed.

I just have a hard time believing Dame would willingly sign up for that. I know I wrote an article a month or so back where I said I think the Knicks now might finally be able to land a big-name free agent, and I still believe that’s true, but not Dame. Dame is not a Thibs type of player. I just can’t see it.

Philly, on the other hand, I could see. Philly has a GM in Daryl Morey who is everything the sports media thinks Bob Myers is–a genius who can pull off unbelievable trades. Daryl Morey is the guy who pulled off the Harden trade, then pulled off the Chris Paul trade, and then pulled off the Russell Westbrook trade. He went to Northwestern for undergrad and then got his MBA from MIT. He’s a legitimate Smart Guy. Not to say Bob Myers isn’t, because you don’t become a sports agent turned NBA GM unless you’re savvy and have some brains, but he’s not on the same level as Daryl Morey. Maybe nobody in the league is.

Philly has some attractive pieces that Portland would actually want, and it all centers around Ben Simmons. Now obviously Ben Simmons’ value is low right now, but he’s still got value. I’ll bet most of the teams in the league believe they can fix him. They look at what Giannis is doing in the playoffs and think, “We could turn Simmons into something like that.” Maybe not as physically dominant, but Ben Simmons is also a way better passer. He’s an elite defender, just like Giannis, and at 6′ 10″ with guard skills, Ben Simmons still has loads of potential.

I just don’t think it works in Philadelphia. There are reports that Simmons and Embiid aren’t the best of buddies, plus their basketball styles aren’t really a great fit. Ben Simmons is at his best when the lane is free and he can attack the rim, but Joel Embiid is a low-post anchor who dominates the paint. With Embiid on the floor, Ben Simmons is not nearly as effective as he could be.

Philly could put together a package of Ben Simmons plus some shooters, perhaps Seth Curry, and some other pieces like draft picks and role players to make the salaries work. I think that would be very attractive to Portland. Portland could take on Ben Simmons and put a bunch of shooters around him, and I think it would work. I’m not saying Ben Simmons would immediately turn into Giannis, but Portland would be following the Bucks’ blueprint to a large extent.

I know everyone is ripping on Ben Simmons right now, but the dude was the #1 overall pick for a reason. He’s about to turn 25, so he’s still very young. He’s a great passer, a great defender, and this season he had a 42-point near-triple double in a game where Embiid was out. In Portland, with no Embiid clogging the lane, and with CJ McCollum and probably Seth Curry on the outside hitting threes? Man, I actually really like the idea of that. I honestly do. I’m still a believer in Ben Simmons, I just think he needs to get out of Philly. Being in Portland surrounded by shooters and free to attack the rim at will would be a great situation for him.

And the Sixers would be thrilled to receive Dame in return. Dame + Embiid would be a hell of a duo. You’d have one of the most dominant inside players paired with one of the most lethal outside shooters in the history of the league. I don’t want to get too carried away here but it would be reminiscent of Shaq & Kobe. Just think about it.

To me, this is the move. Philly gets Dame, Portland gets Ben Simmons, Seth Curry and maybe one other role player and/or some draft picks. Both teams would like this deal.

Philly would have to stock up on some wing defenders in order to better match up with Brooklyn, but this move would make Philly a true threat to win the East. Brooklyn wouldn’t have any answer for Embiid inside, and when it comes to Milwaukee, Embiid might be the only guy in the East that can actually go toe-to-toe with Giannis.

I’m endorsing this move. This is more than viable, it’s basically a slam dunk for both teams.

Now, that said there are other teams in the mix as well. Obviously the Lakers are always rumored, but I don’t think Dame could get there unless he explicitly tells the Blazers he only wants to play for the Lakers. The Lakers’ trade assets are just not that attractive.

And now there’s word that he’s “intrigued” by the idea of playing for the Heat:

Dame, Jimmy Butler and Bam sounds like a good team to me. But would the Heat be able to acquire Dame without giving up Bam? I don’t know about that.

All these hypothetical Miami Heat trade packages center around Tyler Herro. I’m sorry, but Tyler Herro does not have trade value anymore. Miami should’ve moved him when his value was high, right after the bubble. He did that snarl thing in the bubble playoffs and everyone thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. The Heat have clearly fallen out of love with him; he averaged 15 points and 30 minutes per game in the 2021 regular season, but only 9 points and 23 minutes a game in the playoffs.

Apparently late in the season this year, the Heat were beginning to grow “concerned” with Herro’s “celebrity lifestyle.” He got way too into the Miami’s off-the-court attractions–the nightclubs, the beautiful women, the flashy cars, the many celebrities and rappers prominent down there, etc.

I know Miami wants to get rid of him, but at this point, he is not even remotely viable as the centerpiece of a Damian Lillard trade offer. It’s just not realistic. Philly’s potential offer is significantly better.

And finally, the Boston Celtics. I’m so sick of hearing about the Boston Celtics in every trade or free agency rumor. In fact, I’m sick of the Celtics actually acquiring these players. They’ll always be a good-not-great team. In 2020, they had Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward and they still couldn’t make it to the Finals.

A few years before that, they traded for Kyrie Irving and that was supposed to be the big move that put the Celtics over the top–watch out, everyone! Here come the Celtics! Nope.

In 2017, the Celtics get Al Horford and it’s the same thing: whoa, look out, the Celtics are for real this year! No, they’re not. Stop it.

It’s like every fucking year, “The Celtics are rumored to get [player], this could put them over the top!”

I’m just sick of the Celtics acquiring all these good players either in trades or in free agency and never doing anything with them.

Dame is not enough to put them over the top. Sure, he and Tatum would make a great outside combo, but they still have no interior presence. They’d have to give up Brown, and while Dame is absolutely a better player than Jaylen Brown, in terms of scoring, it’s really not that huge an upgrade. This season, Dame averaged 28.8ppg, Brown averaged 24.7. I know there’s more to it than just points per game, but I just don’t think Dame turns the Celtics into a Championship contender.

I would honestly be disappointed if Dame ends up on the Celtics. It means he’s basically guaranteed to end his career without a ring. He might get to a Conference Finals or two, but the Celtics are not winning shit. It would just be Dame and Tatum launching threes. I know they just got Al Horford (again), but 35-year-old Al Horford is not the big man that will take that team over the top.

It just feels like ever since the KG-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen-Rajon Rondo team broke up, the Celtics have been mixing and matching pieces in vain. They’re always a tier below Championship-caliber no matter what: with Isaiah Thomas leading the way, with Kyrie Irving leading the way, with Jayson Tatum leading the way. It’s always the same.

It would just suck if the Celtics somehow swoop in and get Dame, thus blue-balling some other team that could actually win a Championship with him, and probably ensuring Dame retires ringless. The Boston Celtics are like the black hole of the NBA. I feel like the Celtics are that team that you trade your disgruntled stars to knowing you’ll get a decent haul in return and guarantee the guy you traded never seriously contends for a chip. It’s a win-win.

The Lakers are also rumored to get every player in the league, and it’s kind of annoying, but at least with the Lakers you know that if they actually get the player they’re rumored to be getting, they’re a legitimate Championship favorite. The Celtics are by far the most annoying team when it comes to trade rumors.

So please, for the love of God, do not trade Dame to the Celtics.

Octavian

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