NBA trade machines were already being put to use with people concocting deals for former Weber State star Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, but that’s gone into overdrive this week after Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that Lillard could request a trade.
But what would the Blazers want in return for an All-NBA player of Lillard’s caliber who has four years left on his contract? Certainly Portland’s asking price will be high, but it could take a few forms.
The Blazers could be thinking they want to remain relevant in the short term and ask for quality, established players in exchange for Lillard. This would open up just about every team in the league to try to come up with some sort of deal to land him.
More likely, though, Portland will decide that if it’s going to lose one of the best players in the league, it will move into rebuild mode and primarily want future draft picks in return for Lillard.
This would lessen the number of potential suitors for Lillard if it’s just a two-team trade, as not many teams own a bunch of future first-round picks beyond their own (and teams are not allowed to trade their own first-round pick two years in a row).
Deals could definitely get complicated if more than two teams are involved, as combos of players and picks sent out and received in deals could be countless, but here’s a look at the teams that own at least one future first-round pick beyond their own that could get involved in a trade for Lillard, whether it be to acquire him or facilitate a deal for another team.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and draft pick information is according to RealGM.
The Hawks barely qualify for this list, as they own just one extra future first-round pick, one in 2022 from the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s probably not enough draft capital to get a deal done unless Atlanta includes Trae Young in the deal. That would certainly be an all-in move for a Hawks team that is in the Eastern Conference Finals since Lillard is better than Young right now, but it’s surely not happening. In other words, the Hawks really probably won’t be a player in Lillard talks, at least as far as trading picks for him.
Golden State Warriors
Oh, boy. The former juggernaut Warriors have two lottery picks this year, Nos. 7 and 14. Will they look to make a splash by centering a deal around those picks, last year’s No. 2 pick James Wiseman and some other stuff (expect that phrase numerous times throughout the rest of this) for Lillard, who would help them make another run at a title? Too bad the Warriors just moved to San Francisco from Oakland, Lillard’s hometown. That would have been fun.
The Rockets have picks on picks on picks to use in trades. According to RealGM, they’ve got 11 extra first-round picks or pick swaps between now and 2027 (they do owe first-round picks in 2024 and 2026 to the Oklahoma City Thunder). The thing is, Houston should have no intention of trying to acquire Lillard. They are in full rebuild mode and need as many draft picks as possible to rebuild correctly. Landing Lillard would do them basically no good. It’s possible they could send picks as part of a multiteam deal, but doubtful.
This one is moderately fun given that the Grizzlies are an up-and-coming team. They own the Utah Jazz’s first-round pick in 2022 and a Golden State pick in 2024. Neither of those picks should be very high, which the Blazers wouldn’t like. Memphis would also likely have to include a young player it really likes, and it’s got a great young point guard, Lillard’s position, in Ja Morant. Fun to think about, but the Grizzlies probably aren’t in position in their rebuild right now for a huge move like this.
New Orleans Pelicans
This might be the most realistic draft pick-related trade involving Lillard. The Pelicans have seven picks or pick swaps between 2022 and 2027, along with a bunch of young players they could include to create a duo of Lillard and Zion Williamson that would be pretty scary. New Orleans is trying to make a leap into playoff contender, and consolidating players and assets into someone like Lillard makes a lot of sense in that regard. Then even if they trade a bunch of picks, they’ll still have quite a few in their pocket for the future.
New York Knicks
The Knicks surprised just about everyone by finishing the 2020-21 season strong and getting the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau. New York doesn’t have a ton of extra draft capital, but it’s got an extra first-round pick this year and another one in 2023, both from the Dallas Mavericks. Would the Knicks be interested in sending those picks plus some other stuff to Portland for Lillard? It would certainly be fun to see him in the Big Apple.
Oklahoma City Thunder
If you thought the Rockets’ 11 extra first-round picks was a lot, check this out: The Thunder have 13 extras between now and 2027. It’s become a running joke that Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti won’t deal with teams who won’t give up a first-round pick in a trade. Like the Rockets, though, the Thunder are in the beginning stages of a rebuild and should have no interest in acquiring Lillard right now. Could they get involved as a third team with Portland and someone else though? Perhaps. For now, though, the Thunder name will be called out a lot over the next few drafts.
The Magic have three extra first-round picks between now and 2025, but they signaled earlier this year that they’re entering a full rebuild when they traded Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier. At the very least, they should hold on to the picks they have if not add more over the next few years. In other words, they shouldn’t be getting involved in a Lillard deal.