Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports reports point guard Damian Lillard could be on the way out after the Trail Blazers failed to include him in the coaching search. Lillard’s contract makes him difficult to trade, but there will be a market for the superstar if he wants out. And a recent tweet may be signal the end of his time in the Rose City.
“Sometime it’s not the people who change. It’s the mask that falls off”— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) June 27, 2021
Lillard put up 34.3 points and 10.2 assists in six playoff games this season while averaging a career playoff high 41.3 minutes per contest. He did not get much help from CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Jusuf Nurkic and other key role players as the Blazers fell to a depleted Denver Nuggets team. That was Portland’s fourth first-round exit in five seasons and the fifth time in Lillard’s eight seasons with the team he failed to see the second round.
According to Haynes, the Trail Blazers did not get Lillard’s approval when deciding to bring in Billups and did not interview his suggested candidates. Lillard reportedly stumped for Jason Kidd, who ended up going to the Dallas Mavericks. He also publicly voiced support for David Vanterpool, a Trail Blazers assistant for much of Lillard’s career.
If Lillard does decide to move forward with a trade request, here are five potential landing spots for the star guard.
The Heat are always looking to add top talent and Lillard fits the bill. He would probably embrace “Heat Culture” and the yearly pursuit of championships no matter what the cost. Miami doesn’t have much to trade in terms of draft picks, but can send Tyler Herro and Precious Achiuwa to Portland in any deal. The Heat will have to deal with restricted free agents Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn, but could add Lillard into their existing cap space prior to matching offers. Miami will also have to see what Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala do with their respective team options.
This is not a great fit for Lillard, who would not want to get involved in another questionable rebuilding process. However, the Magic have the assets to make a deal Portland will be okay with. This includes two 2021 lottery picks and plenty of salary filler options. Lillard doesn’t have a no-trade clause, so he doesn’t have much of a choice when it comes to his destination if he wants to leave. Orlando would get a superstar guard to balance out a roster loaded with frontcourt players.
The Warriors also have two lottery picks in 2021 and will almost certainly be looking to add immediate talent with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green entering the backend of their primes. Lillard would certainly boost Golden State’s chances of winning another title and he gets to return to his hometown (kind of) in this deal. The Warriors have Andrew Wiggins to match salaries, but would definitely have to also give up James Wiseman in the deal.
The Knicks have draft picks to give away and are looking for a superstar. After making the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, the Knicks don’t want to lose that momentum. Lillard would be a box office star in New York, which has enough cap space to take on his current deal. The Knicks would also be able to add another star in free agency to go along with an developing young core. Even if they had to part with some players to bring Lillard on board, the Knicks would do this deal.
The Lakers are always mentioned when it comes to superstars looking to leave small market teams struggling to contend. Lillard would fit well in Los Angeles with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but the Lakers have to get create to navigate the salary cap. They can’t include their first-round pick this year and have to convey picks to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Davis trade. Los Angeles is a nice destination on paper, but doesn’t have much traction when looking at the logistics.