It should be noted that Damian Lillard in his wide-ranging discussion with Brian Custer of Showtime this week said that at the end of the day, he expected to be back in Portland come Opening Night on October 24.
The appearance on Custer’s Last Stand podcast has generated what you would expect: a ton of speculation, particularly around the two teams he specifically mentioned as ideal landing spots if things don’t work out in Portland and he asks for a trade: the Miami Heat and your Brooklyn Nets.
As he said of the two teams…
“Miami obviously,” said Lillard with a laugh in response to Custer’s question about which team he might like to join in a trade. “Miami is the obvious one and Bam (Adebayo) is my dawg. Bam is my dawg for real. But I think Miami is the obvious one. Brooklyn is another obvious one because Mikal Bridges is my dawg too and both are capable, have capable rosters.”
Now, both Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports and Zach Harper of The Athletic, in a discussion with his colleague, Shams Charania, have chimed in with how things might evolve in the lead up to the NBA Draft on June 22 and free agency a week later. The Blazers hold the No. 3 pick in the Draft and may try to find a team that would accept the pick — and maybe some of Portland’s other players — in return for a veteran who could help them and Lillard win now.
Haynes told Dan Patrick on Thursday that he expects any trade speculation would be limited to the “Nets and Heat” (his order) and that because of Lillard’s decade long loyalty to the Blazers, ownership and management in Rose City would try to accommodate him.
“If it gets to that point, they would consult with Dame. He’s been there 10 years,” said Haynes, who’s know to be close to Lillard and the Blazers management.
So, with all that in mind, Harper tried his hand at possible deals in The Athletic on Friday.
Lillard linking with Miami is complicated without involving Adebayo, meaning Tyler Herro and the $120 million he’s owed over the next four seasons would be the focus of any potential trade. Maybe Victor Oladipo’s expiring money could help. Miami also has younger guys on good contracts (Caleb Martin, Nikola Jović). The Heat could also offer three first-round picks and swaps. Is that return enticing enough for Portland to trade arguably its best player ever?
A Brooklyn deal probably centers around the expiring deals of Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. That’s before hoping to pry as many of those future first-round picks Brooklyn has from Philadelphia, Phoenix and Dallas. Either way, such offers might not inspire a promising rebuild for Blazers fans.
Those two players, both on expiring deals, will make a total of $38.8 million next season, close enough to Lillard’s $45.6 million unless there’s some wrinkle in the new CBA that would complicate things.
Of course, we should note that Harper used the word, “probably,” indicating a (current) lack of insight into where things might be headed. So, it’s speculation and a league source told NetsDaily that Portland would likely first ask for Nic Claxton.
The Nets certainly have a lot of picks they could use in any deal, far more than the Heat’s three and some swaps. Between this year’s Draft and 2030, the Nets have 11 first round picks they can trade, nine of them unprotected: four from the Suns in the Kevin Durant trade, two from the Mavericks in the Kyrie Irving trade, one (protected 1-through 8) left over from the James Harden trade in 2022 and four of their own. (Because of the Stepien Rule, there are restrictions on how many they can move in a single deal but it’s still the fourth highest stash in the NBA.)
How many would Sean Marks be willing to move and how many would Blazers GM Joe Cronin want? That’s yet to be determined and Lillard isn’t saying anything specific about who he might want next to him in red and black or whether the addition of Scoot Henderson, the projected No. 3 pick might convince him to stay. Still, in an Instagram post overnight, he seemed to be indicating time is of the essence…
Again, there’s plenty of time between now and then to speculate and no doubt we and others will.