July 16, 2021

Which NBA Team Should Trade for Damian Lillard?

Time could be running out on Dame Time in Portland. 

Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard hasn't formally requested a trade out of Portland, but it could just be a matter of, ahem, time, according to Yahoo Sports. 

While the Blazers currently have the longest active playoff streak, Lillard rightfully has worries about Portland's chances of winning a championship. The 30-year-old point guard's patience is clearly running thin. 

Lillard's backcourt running mate C.J. McCollum has been part of plenty of potential trades, but now it’s time to inspect some Lillard deals.

These are the five best deals the Blazers could get for Lillard. 

Trade 1: Damian Lillard to the Philadelphia 76ers

The Trade: Lillard for Ben Simmons, Tyrese Maxey, 2023 First-Round Pick

Would this be a big enough blockbuster enough for you? It appears both Simmons and Lillard could be on the move this offseason, and each team can pretty easily talk themselves into making a deal.

For Philadelphia, Daryl Morey loves taking big swings. Part of the reason he didn’t cough up assets at the trade deadline for Kyle Lowry was because he wanted to keep the powder dry for a bigger move this offseason, when more stars are set to become available.

This would be a dream scenario for Morey and the 76ers. Pairing Lillard and Joel Embiid would be a scary proposition for the rest of the league, and they would make a perfect pair. Lillard’s shooting range is limitless, which would provide Embiid with the most spacious environment of his career.

Throughout his NBA career, Embiid has always played with Simmons, whose refusal to shoot has cramped the floor and allowed teams to send double teams without a fear in the world.

Embiid’s skill set also will have a compounding effect for Lillard, seeing as he’s never played with someone as dominant as the 7-footer. Embiid’s post-up efficiency ranked in the 83rd percentile this season.

For the Blazers, losing Lillard will sting no matter who they receive in return. But if Portland is indeed forced to part with their franchise cornerstone, receiving Simmons, Maxey and a future first is a healthy return. Simmons’ shooting struggles are well chronicled, but even if he doesn’t fix his shot, he drastically improves the Blazers’ shoddy defense and provides a quality offensive facilitator.

Maxey also showed tons of promise this season and even stepped up in the playoffs when Doc Rivers gave him the chance. In the 76ers’ Game 6 victory over the Hawks, Maxey scored 16 points and hauled in seven rebounds. He’s got a tight handle and is comfortable attacking the line. Oh, and he’s also only 20-years-old.

Trade 2: Lillard to the Denver Nuggets

The Trade: Lillard for Jamal Murray, Bol Bol and No. 26 Pick

This would be a fascinating deal, especially because the Nuggets are coming off a hard-fought series against Lillard and the Blazers. In an ideal world, the Nuggets would stand pat and keep developing their core around Nikola Jokic.

But this is the modern NBA, where reality and expectations wash over teams like a bucket of cold water. Murray is just 24, and before his unfortunate ACL injury, he was one of the league’s fastest rising stars. He’s also transformed into a playoff nightmare for opposing coaches.

Last postseason, Murray averaged 26.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists on ridiculous 50/45/90 shooting splits. But Murray is set to miss most of the 2021-22 season.

Jokic can be a free agent in 2023, and while he seems pleased in Denver, the Nuggets can’t rest on their laurels. Without Murray, their supporting cast is solid, but not good enough to become a title contender.

Murray and Jokic have built beautiful chemistry over the years, but the opportunity to trade for Lillard would likely be too alluring for the Nuggets to stand pat.

Lillard, Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. on the same team could easily smash the all-time offensive rating. 

Would the defense be an issue? Yes, but who cares if no one can keep up with Denver’s scoring? 

The Blazers would be conceding next season, but if Lillard is traded, the Finals are a pipedream anyway. Murray would represent an excellent successor to Lillard, and he’s six years younger. Throw in Bol Bol, a first-round pick, and voila! That should do it. 

Trade 3: Damian Lillard to the Toronto Raptors

The Trade: Lillard for Pascal Siakam, 2022 First-Round Pick

Pascal Siakam is one of the biggest wildcards of the offseason as a star who could become available in the trade market. 

Some teams view Siakam as a super versatile forward who can guard all five positions and contribute on offense while more skeptical squads see a player who hasn’t been able to create his own shot consistently in crunch time.

The truth behind those conflicting viewpoints is somewhere in between. Siakam is no doubt an excellent, multi-positional defender. In the 2019-20 campaign, the Raptors held opponents to a stingy 103 defensive rating with Siakam on the floor.

He’s an NBA champion and would fit right alongside Jusuf Nurkic to help fortify Portland’s defense. Over his past two seasons, he’s averaged around 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. 

Portland needs to do its best to acquire an established star, in addition to other ancillary assets. The Raptors’ 2022 first-round pick should do the trick, which would give Portland an intriguing core of Siakam, McCollum, Nurkic, Norman Powell (if re-signed), Robert Covington, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, plus a surplus of picks. That could be something.

In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is never afraid to take a gamble. Exhibit A? Trading for Kawhi Leonard on an expiring contract. If the Raptors pull the trigger, they have a very strong core of Lillard, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Chris Boucher. That’s not counting Kyle Lowry, who could re-sign, or their upcoming No. 4 draft pick, which might yield a future star.

Dame's timezone might have to be adjusted, but the Raptors would be a fierce, competitive team that would compete in the East, especially if Ujiri decides to trade the pick for another immediate upgrade.

Trade 4: Lillard to the Golden State Warriors

The Trade: Lillard for Andrew Wiggins, James Wiseman, No. 7 Pick

This deal would certainly detonate your Twitter timeline. While it might not be likely, if the Warriors pull off this deal they would be doing backflips.

The Warriors would be the first team that requires opponents to defend them at the halfcourt line. Between Lillard, Stephen Curry, a hopefully healthy Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Dubs would have the firepower to win a championship despite some depth issues. 

The Blazers would be making a hard yet smart decision by deciding to receive a largely future-focused return. Wiggins would be in the deal for salary purposes, but he was one of their most consistent players who can play both ends of the floor.

He’s not an albatross anymore, but instead a solid, dependable and flexible role player who plays a valuable position.

As for Wiseman, the hope is he can still become a future star at the center position. His shaky hands are concerning, but he possesses all the skills to become the next new-age big man with the toolbox of a wing. His jump shot has a clean motion and he’s displayed nascent ball-handling capabilities.

As for the pick, thanks to Golden State's lottery luck, that could be Davion Mitchell, James Bouknight or Keon Johnson, all of whom are exciting backcourt prospects.

Trade 5: Lillard to the New York Knicks

The Trade: Lillard for R.J. Barrett, Obi Toppin, 2021, 2023, 2025 First-Round Picks

Dame Time in New York? Why the heck not? Lillard has previously professed his love for playing at Madison Square Garden in the past, and he’d make a mean combo with Julius Randle.

The Knicks desperately craved the presence of a point guard. Derrick Rose quenched that thirst as an efficient scorer, but his knees can’t be relied on other than reserve minutes going forward.

Lillard would immediately become a premier NBA superstar in the league’s biggest market. The insanity following his Portland playoff feats was well deserved, but imagine how crazy New York will get if Lillard pulls off another game-winner at the Garden? The whole city would be shaking, and many players want to be the guy who rightfully restores winning basketball in MSG.

Lillard and Randle together are two of the most durable players in the league, and Randle could serve as a reliable facilitator who Lillard can pass to when he gets double-teamed in pick-and-roll situations. And the Knicks would still have cap space to chase more help, as well as bank on the development of Mitchell Robinson and Immanuel Quickley.

If they made this move, the Blazers would be looking at a full-on teardown, with subsequent McCollum and Nurkic trades to follow. But this would be a really strong return! Barrett made huge strides in his second season, particularly with his three-point shot, while Toppin flashed some monstrous pick-and-roll potential on offense. Just don't ask about his defense. 

Ultimately, the Blazers have a very difficult decision to make. But if they can manage to strike a deal where they receive both picks and young prospects, then their painful rebuild will be off to a good start.

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration