Damian Lillard’s days in Portland are numbered. Last Friday, True Hoop’s Henry Abbott delivered a blow to Dame’s future with the Blazers when he reported that sources, “expect Lillard to request trade in the days to come.”
Source: Blazers star Damian Lillard to request trade in the days to come.— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) July 16, 2021
If this is a surprise, you haven't been paying attention. https://t.co/FS7KL1pPPm
This is no surprise to anyone who had been paying attention—or anyone who is familiar with the precedent of disgruntled stars in the NBA—and to boot, Abbott is as credible/well-sourced as they come. He goes on to write, reading the very obvious tea leaves:
“As an organization, the Blazers have been melting since their playoff exit. Coach Terry Stotts was cut loose. Sources say billionaire Jody Allen plans to sell the team… A coaching search resulted in a debacle of a press conference. GM Neil Olshey may have cost himself his job by ramming through his preferred candidate evidently without taking past rape accusations seriously.”
Lillard’s future first began to face serious doubt last month when Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported that backlash from the Blazers coaching search and their failure to build a contender have forced Dame to consider requesting a trade, and this latest reporting from Abbott was always the logical next step.
Lillard took the opportunity to address the rumors in his media availability with Team USA last week, and while he understandably denied that he was planning to demand a trade, he refused to commit to Portland, and continued to push the party line that he loves the Blazers fan base despite the organization’s failure to build a contender—this is where he continues to tip his hand toward his true intentions.
While the Tokyo Olympics and Lillard’s commitment to Team USA could potentially complicate or delay the timeline of any trade negotiations, it’s safe to say that Dame will have a new home come next season. The only question is whether or not that’ll be here in Philadelphia.
Where do the Sixers rank as potential trade suitors?
Potential suitors for Lillard will need to square being a contender, the ability to offer Portland a strong package of assets, and Dame’s desire to play in that city (the Blazers aren’t going to trade him without approval). That leaves us with a shortlist of teams of which the Sixers appear to be positioned favorably—the Knicks, Warriors, Celtics, and Nuggets.
As far as legitimate, blue-chip players under the age of 25 go, the Sixers can offer Ben Simmons, the Nuggets can offer Jamal Murray, and the Celtics can offer Jaylen Brown. We can debate how to rank each of these names, but their values are fairly similar regardless of order. Whichever of those teams is willing to part with their given “star” would be in the driver’s seat for Lillard.
In the event that all three are deemed “untouchable,” or rather, in the event that Portland is looking for a quantity of assets to kick-start a “process-like” rebuild as opposed to one or two high-value assets, then these discussions are opened up to teams like the Knicks and Warriors. Neither of those front offices has the blue-chip piece like Ben, Brown, or Murray; but they’re both planning to contend, and both have enough assets to pool together a respectable package for Lillard.
Here’s a breakdown of what each team has to offer (you be the judge of who has the most value in their war chest):
- Sixers trade assets: Ben Simmons, Matisse Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry, 28th overall pick, future firsts 2022-24
- Nuggets trade assets: Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, 26th overall pick, future firsts in 2022 & 2024
- Knicks trade assets: Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, 19th overall pick, 21st overall pick, 32nd overall pick, future first rounders from 2022 and beyond
- Celtics trade assets: Jaylen Brown, Aaron Nesmith, Robert Williams, Marcus Smart, future firsts from 2022-24
- Warriors trade assets: 7th overall pick, 14th overall pick, James Wiseman, future firsts in 2022 & 2023
I’ll allow for some disagreement, but the Sixers pretty clearly have the most ammunition to get a trade done for Lillard, and only the Nuggets are in their ballpark. Without including the 24-year old stars (Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, or Ben Simmons), the Sixers are even more firm atop that list with trade chips like Maxey and Thybulle—the only pieces on that list with more value are MPJ and possibly Quickley. Then consider the fact that Tobias Harris can be flipped for assets himself (possibly a young piece and a pick or two) and Morey’s pool of assets far outpaces the rest of the potential suitors.
Suffice to say, while the Sixers are well positioned to trade for Lillard with an asset as valuable as Ben Simmons, as long as the Nuggets aren’t willing to include Jamal Murray in a package for Dame, then Morey could potentially offer the most appealing package to the Blazers without including Simmons—a dream scenario for any sensible Sixers fan.
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