Damian Lillard’s eventual availability is causing ripples across the league. What are some likely destinations and what does that mean when looking at NBA odds?
Dame Wants Out
The writing is on the wall. Another 1st round playoff exit led to Lillard’s frustration. Lillard was amazing yet his teammates came up short. When asked about a new coach, Lillard endorsed Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd, who are both saddled with domestic violence and sexual assault allegations. The politically conscious fan base of Portland turned on their star, a once-unthinkable prospect.
While Lillard has constantly been preaching loyalty, the fan base turning on him could be the final straw. He is already frustrated with the direction of the team. Lillard always had his love of the Portland community to fall back on. With a vocal minority pushing back with anti-Lillard sentiments, it could be the final act to set the stage for an exit.
Certain teams have been eager to make moves but are holding off, Philadelphia most notably. Philadelphia has quite the incentive to move Ben Simmons, as he does not fit with Joel Embiid and his playoff performance. Keeping Simmons could cause locker room and chemistry issues if he is on the roster to start training camp.
Philadelphia has been floating outlandish trade offers. The idea is that they are waiting to move Simmons because they eventually expect Lillard to become available. This makes total sense and gives you an idea of how Lillard’s eventual availability is putting some player movement on hold for now.
According to top sportsbooks, the Golden State Warriors are obviously a preferred option for Lillard. He grew up in the Oakland area. The fit could be a concern. Lillard and Steph Curry are both smaller sharpshooting guards that can be targeted on the defensive end. Now that the draft has passed, the 7 and 14 selections that the Warriors were holding on to are much less attractive.
Regardless, the Warriors now have 3 lottery picks in the last 2 years in James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody. These players could be attached to Andrew Wiggins and future picks in order to begin the Blazers rebuild. While the fit next to Curry is dubious, the return for Portland is substantial and it’s a place where Lillard would want to be. Golden State could be another team that held off on trading their assets in hopes of acquiring Lillard.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are now out of the market after acquiring Russell Westbrook. They are too close to the cap and have sent off a majority of their tradable assets to acquire Westbrook. So, unless Lillard is not dealt until next season, the Lakers are no longer a likely option.
The Miami Heat are seemingly linked to every superstar that is available even though they have dubious cap space and not that many assets. Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are 2 young players that would be attractive to Portland, but that in no way would mitigate the loss of Lillard. At first glance, it seems unlikely that Miami could end up with Lillard. Take it into consideration for your NBA picks.
Yet Pat Riley has been a genius before and could engage a 3rd team in order to get Portland the return that they need. Lillard would fit in beautifully next to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Lillard spoke of the joys of playing with a rim running big during his current Olympic stint as a teammate of Adebayo. Even though it seems unlikely, never count out Pat Riley and the Miami Heat when it comes to acquiring a big star.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are another team with plenty of young players to rebuild around and draft picks to trade. Lillard would be the biggest star in Madison Square Garden since Carmelo Anthony. Lillard could definitely help the Knicks make a proper playoff push. The Knicks have Immanuel Quickly, Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, and RJ Barrett to include with a plethora of picks in an offer. When Lillard does officially demand a trade, do not count out the Knicks as a potential destination.
My personal favorite landing spot would be the Denver Nuggets. Seeing Lillard next to Jokic would be the most incredible offensive pairing since Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. With Michael Porter Jr, Jamal Murray, and some upcoming picks, the Blazers could definitely jump-start a rebuild with the assets that Denver has available. Although this doesn’t seem likely, as Denver seems quite content to continue the development of Murray, as an NBA fan this is my favorite potential destination. The pairing of Lillard and Jokic would be must-see tv every game!
Although NBA future odds are currently not up for this, the field would also be an intriguing option. Although the teams I have mentioned are the most likely, this is the NBA, and player trades fly under the radar all the time.
Westbrook going to Houston in 2019 and Chris Paul going to Phoenix in 2020 are 2 examples of blockbuster trades that nobody was aware of before they were announced. Do not underestimate the high probability of unpredictable randomness when it comes to NBA player movement.