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Portland Trail Blazers rejected trade that would have made Damian Lillard happy

After 11 memorable seasons, one of the most loyal players in the NBA appears set to move on with Damian Lillard requesting a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s gotten to the point where the seven-time All-NBA guard is so upset with the organization’s direction that he doesn’t plan to report to camp unless he’s traded to the Miami Heat.

It’s clear Lillard, 32, wants a strong chance of competing for what could be his first championship ring, yet the Blazers have not shown interest in accelerating their timeline. Having added a trio of young talents in recent years in Anfernee Simons, Shaedon Sharpe, and now Scoot Henderson, the Blazers have a bright future. But many wonder how good the team could be if one or a couple of these rising talents were swapped for a proven star instead.

Heading into the 2023 NBA Draft, the Trail Blazers were included in several trade rumors involving the No. 3 pick. Henderson became the pick, and though he impressed in his Vegas Summer League debut, some reports suggest trading the pick could have improved the team’s relationship with Lillard instead.

According to Aaron Fentress of Oregon Live, Portland had a chance to make a trade that “would have improved the team enough to please Lillard.” Some offers reportedly involved including the third pick, Sharpe, Simons, and Nurkic, in exchange for an unknown star player.

Obviously, the Blazers opted against the win-now route, putting their belief behind Henderson instead. Time will tell if it pays off in the long run, but it seems they did so knowing that their decision could lead to Lillard’s departure. Only now, we’re seeing the team play hardball, holding out for the best offer possible instead of sending Lillard to his desired destination.

From Portland’s perspective, it’s hard to fault GM Joe Cronin for trying to operate with the long-term goals in mind as the Blazers shift to life without Lillard. And for Dame, well, he probably feels he’s earned the right to have some control over his next chapter. Without a no-trade clause, Lillard doesn’t have the same leverage as Bradley Beal, who essentially chose his path to Phoenix.

Lillard wants to go to Miami, but the Blazers reportedly aren’t pleased with the Heat’s offer so far. Maybe a third team gets involved and makes everyone happy, but it’s hard not to wonder who Portland may have had a chance at trading for on draft night instead.

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