Should The Portland Trail Blazers Trade Damian Lillard Prior To The 2022 NBA Draft? What Options Are Available?

Has Dame Time Expired?

After last year’s challenging season, the Portland Trail Blazers find themselves in a precarious spot. They have a decent amount of cap room but face restricted offers on Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkić that can eat up that space. They dropped to 7th in the draft order, but there are still many prospects that will be available and in the lineup on night one. If they resign those guys and draft accordingly, it’s possible that the Blazers won’t be able to compete with the likes of Golden State and Dallas. 

By Damian Lillard’s second season (2013-2014), he cemented his spot in the league as a premier point guard. Alongside veteran LaMarcus Aldridge, Dame piloted a top-five offense to the Conference Semifinals, where they would lose to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. After the 2014-2015 season, Aldridge left the Blazers, and the team keys were entirely in Damian Lillard’s hand. Since that season, Dame has averaged 27 points per game, seven assists per game, and five rebounds per game. His face and his playstyle have become synonymous with the Portland Trail Blazers.

While trying for championships in Rip City for ten seasons, Dame and company have come short. Not that Blazers fans are sick of Lillard, which is not the case; our fan base may feel it is best for both parties to part ways. Maybe it’s the recent Super Bowl win by Matthew Stafford with the Los Angeles Rams after borderline suffering with the Detroit Lions for so many years that have Blazers fans wanting the same outcome for Damian Lillard. Would it be the right situation for Dame and the Blazers to mutually part ways and trade him to a team that gets them a bunch of prospects or picks before the draft?

Let’s say the Blazers and Damian Lillard decide to call it quits. Because everyone loves hypothetical trades, here are three situations that may happen.:

Getting Rid Of The SuperMax

John Wall and several picks for Damian Lillard

It’s no surprise that John Wall has picked up his $47.4 million player option for this year with the Houston Rockets. Once arguably the most explosive point guard in the league, Wall hasn’t played an entire season since the 2016-2017 season, where he averaged 23 points per game and ten assists per game. Since then, Wall has had numerous injuries around his knee, Achilles tendon, and heel. He sat out last year, with what I can only find as a decision between the Rockets and Wall. If the Blazers wanted to dump Lillard’s contract due through the 2023-2024 season, with a $48.7 million player option for the 2024-2025 season, and phone in this season, this is the way to go.

Quick Turnaround

Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner for Damian Lillard plus the 7th pick

Last year, the buzz around the league was that the Indiana Pacers were trying to move at least one of their starters in Brogdon, Turner, and Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis was traded to the Kings, but many GMs around the league feel that Brogdon and Turner are still available. If both teams want a quick reset, Portland grabbing Brogdon/Turner puts them right back into the fray in the Western Conference. As for the Pacers, they can dump those two salaries and change up the roster, and have back-to-back picks in this year’s draft.

Semi-Realistic Trade

Evan Fournier, Alec Burks, Kemba Walker, and Obi Toppin for Damian Lillard and the 7th

In proper Knicks fashion, they are always searching for their next star. Recently, high-caliber free agents have avoided signing with the Knicks, so maybe the only way to bring in a star would be via trade? In my opinion, the Knicks are prone to weird trades thanks to their interesting front office. That’s where this trade comes in. Fournier and Burks provided production last year, but Kemba was weirdly jettisoned off the team once Derrick Rose returned. Obi Toppin has also been underwhelming, so why wouldn’t the Knicks try to make a splash and overpay to land one of the best point guards of all time?

Is Rip City The Best Spot?

I’ve given you a road map to what it would look like if the Blazers were to trade Dame. The above trades would have Dame going to either the Pacers, Knicks, or Rockets. Why these three teams? They are the only teams with salaries and cap space to make these trades work. Remember, signed free agents this offseason aren’t eligible to be traded until mid-December. On top of that, only seven other players have more of a cap hit than Lillard, and I’m sure the Warriors would not make a trade that’s Stephen Curry for Damian Lillard. So that leaves us to the trades above.

Do we owe it to Lillard to him away to a contender before the draft? Unfortunately, there aren’t any contenders that have the space to absorb his contract. If he were to be traded, it would have to be to a team that is currently not in contention or the same spot as the Blazers. At least on this team, we have the great young talent of Josh Hart, Anfernee Simons, and Nasir Little, plus whoever we get at the seventh pick. We’ll “do good” by retaining Lillard, signing Simons and Nurk, bringing in that new draft pick, and riding it out, rather than shipping him to a team in a worse spot.