Update — So Lillard just went on a zoom with reporters at Team USA camp and denied the report from Abbott that he plans to request a trade in the coming days. Again, doesn’t mean he won’t request a trade at some point. Lillard said he hasn’t made a decision on his future and is focused on playing for the U.S. at the Olympics.
Damian Lillard: "I woke up to those reports, a lot of people reaching out to me. But it's not true. I'll start off the rip and say it's not true. A lot of things are being said. It hasn't come from me. I haven't made any firm decision on what my future will be."— Sean Highkin (@highkin) July 16, 2021
Dame also came out and said that he “expects” to be in a Trail Blazers uniform next season. He also mentioned there should be a sense of urgency within the Portland organization to improve the roster. Dame sounded like he won’t be happy if the team runs it back with the same lineup. That could mean shipping out McCollum, like we alluded to below. There’s not much the Blazers can do with cap constraints and the owner looking to sell the team.
Update — The Oregonian has come out and is reporting that Lillard has no plans to request a trade at this time. These are conflicting reports, of course, so we’ll lean in favor of the news outlet right now. It really never made much sense for Dame to request a trade in the coming days while he’s playing for Team USA basketball at the Olympics. This isn’t to say that Dame won’t request a trade this offseason or at a later date. That could very well happen. It just doesn’t appear to be imminent.
Portland Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard is expected to request a trade in the coming days, Henry Abbott reported Friday morning. Lillard is currently playing for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, which begin next weekend. That makes this report a bit odd considering Lillard would be focused on winning a gold medal, and not on whether or not he’ll be traded by the Blazers. So we’ll take this report with a moderate grain of salt for now. Nothing against Abbott.
Now to the speculation. We had reports about a month or so ago from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports stating that Lillard may request out of Portland because of the direction of the franchise and lack of success in building a contender. The Blazers were ousted from the 2021 playoffs in the first round by the Denver Nuggets despite some huge performances from Dame, including a 55-point outing. After that loss is when the rumors start to swirl about Lillard’s future with the franchise.
To make matters worse, the Blazers went ahead and got rid of head coach Terry Stotts, who was unable to get the team over the hump, though not entirely his fault. Portland hired Chauncey Billups to replace Stotts without consulting with its best player beforehand, which didn’t help things much. It appeared the two sides had reached a bit of a boiling point and now it could result in Lillard requesting a trade soon.
The Blazers were always going to have a tough offseason and likely were going to have to choose between Lillard and CJ McCollum for cap flexibility. Lillard is set to make $43.7 million when his contract goes up. McCollum is signed through 2024 and makes just north of $30 million next season. So between the two, that’s almost $75 million on the cap. The cap in the NBA is $109M with the luxury tax line around $132M.
Many will point directly to the Philadelphia 76ers and All-Star Ben Simmons. He’s on a max deal worth around the same as McCollum. Perhaps the Blazers can convince Dame to stay if Simmons is added to give the team more defensive edge and playmaking ability. Simmons could also be added in a swap involving Lillard and perhaps an additional asset like G Tyrese Maxey or wing Matisse Thybulle.
Other teams who will likely be in on Dame if he’s made available include the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks and, well, really anyone.