Damian Lillard wants to win an NBA championship in Portland.
The Trail Blazers would love to take a title with the best player in franchise history steering the ship.
But after missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, and making it to just one Western Conference Finals during the Dame Time era, the NBA world is wondering: Could we finally see the end of the long Lillard-Trail Blazers marriage?
Lillard, who was drafted by Portland as the No. 6 overall pick in 2012, has been vocal about his want for an NBA title but has never gone as far as asking for a trade.
Lillard turns 33 in July, but after making All-NBA Third Team this season, he showed he still can be one of the very players in the sport.
But would Trail Blazers brass really trade Portland’s favorite son so he can pursue that coveted NBA championship? Or is Lillard going to request a trade?
Oddsmakers aren’t so certain.
The Trail Blazers are a -500 favorite to keep Lillard through the start of the 2023-24 NBA season.
|Damian Lillard next team odds|
|Portland Trail Blazers -500|
|Philadelphia 76ers +1000|
|Brooklyn Nets +1600|
|Boston Celtics +2000|
|Los Angeles Lakers +2000|
|Toronto Raptors +2500|
|Los Angeles Clippers +2500|
|New Orleans Pelicans +2800|
|Miami Heat +3000|
Nevertheless, a few teams are lingering, mostly ones who, like Lillard, are trying to get over the hump and take home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Philadelphia 76ers +1000
The Joel Embiid-led 76ers came up short once again, falling to the Boston Celtics in seven games during the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Now, rumors are swirling about a James Harden return to Houston after potentially opting out of his contract for next season.
Philadelphia will need to make big moves if they want to keep this year’s MVP happy and compete for a championship next year and beyond.
Embiid is already being connected to the Knicks, after all.
Lillard would be perhaps the best offensive player Embiid has ever played with, but he would come with a big price tag.
Any deal likely would have to include promising young guard Tyrese Maxey and solid secondary scorer Tobias Harris to match Lillard’s massive $45 million salary next season.
That would sap the Sixers’ depth, but the Embiid-Lillard pairing would be about as good as any in the NBA.
Brooklyn Nets +1600
Lillard kicked off speculation about a move to Brooklyn when he showed up to Game 3 at the Barclays Center during the Nets’ first-round series against the 76ers.
Mikal Bridges and Lillard are friends, and a video showed them leaving the building together after that game.
And after the Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden trades, the Nets suddenly have the pieces to go big game hunting with 11 first-rounders between now and 2029, which is the fourth-most draft capital in the league.
Portland would almost assuredly ask for Bridges back in any Lillard trade, but acquiring an early-30s star like Dame would only make sense if the breakout small forward stays to pair with him.
If Brooklyn can bring in Lillard while hanging onto Bridges, Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson, it would be unlike any team the point guard has ever played on.
Betting on the NBA?
That trio of good-to-great defenders could shore up that side of the ball while Lillard carries the offense.
But is Portland willing to lose the best player in franchise history for mostly draft capital?
Boston Celtics +2000
If Boston isn’t able to come back and beat the Miami Heat, expect this one to garner more smoke.
It’s been a disappointing playoff run for the Celtics, who were taken to six games by the No. 7 seed Hawks and seven games by the Sixers before falling into a 3-0 hole vs. the Heat, leaving people to wonder whether they need a shake-up.
And they may have just the blue chip piece to do it.
Jaylen Brown, who, like Dame, has been in trade rumors for years, has one year left on his contract and is set to get the supermax extension.
If the Celtics don’t want to pay both Brown and Jayson Tatum the supermax, they could pivot to a Lillard trade, and it likely wouldn’t require many more assets other than Brown.
Portland would get a younger star to retool around and Boston would be able to extend its title window.
This title run has proven that the Celtics need a leader in the locker room and a true point guard on the court.
It would hurt to lose a young star like Brown, but Lillard could put them over the hump.
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