Damian Lillard is floated in NBA trade rumors every offseason with teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks always thrown out as landing spots. If a blockbuster trade is going to happen, the Portland Trail Blazers might need to be the one who pushes for it.
Lillard, who missed a majority of the 2021-’22 season with an abdominal injury, has pushed back against trade rumors for years. Even during times of frustration with the Blazers’ organization, the All-Star point guard made it clear he wants to spend his entire career in Portland.
- Damian Lillard contract: $42.4 million (2022), $45.64 million (’23), $48 million player option (’24)
The 31-year-old still envisions his final seasons being played at the Moda Center. However, he also shared in a recent interview with CNBC’s Jabari Young that he’d be open to a trade if the Trail Blazers came to him and indicated that’s what they want.
“If they came to me and they wanted to trade me—I’m not going to fight them on wanting to trade me. I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted. But I don’t think that’s the case.”Portland Trail Blazers PG Damian Lillard on what it would take for him to be traded
NBA fans in New York and Los Angeles might see this and feel hopeful. Portland finished with one of the worst records in the NBA this past season and is clearly in a transition. Without an established, young core to build a championship-caliber team around Lillard, a complete rebuild might make sense.
Why the Trail Blazers will likely keep Damian Lillard
As Lillard told CNBC, he doesn’t envision a trade happening. He loves Portland and believes the organization wants him to stay just as much as he does. There might also be some reason for the front office to feel more optimistic moving forward.
Related: NBA mock draft – Top prospects, top landing spots
While the upcoming NBA Draft lacks a franchise-changing talent, there are still compelling top NBA prospects available. Portland could add a versatile wing or a young guard to pair alongside Lillard. If it wins the NBA Draft lottery, Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. is a compelling option.
Portland Trail Blazers draft picks
- 6th overall (pre-draft lottery)
- 36th overall
- 57th overall (via Memphis)
The Trail Blazers have approximately $18 million in cap space this summer, enough to sign one of the top NBA free agents outside of the star tier. There is even more flexibility a year from now with Nikola Vucevic, Jerami Grant, Christian Wood, Myles Turner and Fred VanVleet all potentially available.
- Damian Lillard stats (2021-’22): 24 ppg, 7.3 apg, 4.1 rpg
If Lillard is willing to be patient with the organization, they likely won’t even consider moving the face of their franchise.