Most around the NBA seem to think there’s very little chance that the Trail Blazers will trade star guard Damian Lillard this summer, but opposing teams are apparently trying to find out for sure.
Per Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Rockets, Heat, Kings, Knicks and 76ers have been the “most aggressive suitors” in attempting to pry Lillard from Portland.
That said, Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey just hired Chauncey Billups as head coach, and word is, Lillard is excited about playing for Billups. And when a team’s best player is happy, the team usually is determined to keep him.
Of course, that does little to keep others from gauging deals, particularly because the Blazers have been sort of spinning their wheels in the Western Conference playoffs.
“Front-office executives say that if the Blazers eventually move Lillard, they can expect a return rivaling or surpassing what the Nets gave up for James Harden: multiple young players, plus three first-round picks and four first-round pick swaps,” O’Connor wrote. “Harden is a former MVP, but he had only two guaranteed seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade.
“Portland could do even better because Lillard has four seasons remaining on his contract worth a grand total of $176 million. The long-term security in Lillard’s contract could lead to more interest from teams and more return in a trade.”
Meanwhile, the Sixers have started to talk to other teams about Ben Simmons, the available All-Star guard/forward. It is not known if the Blazers is among those teams. They aren’t one, to this point, that has been occasionally linked to Simmons beyond anyone other than fans and social media.
O’Connor suggested that could change, though.
“The Sixers hope to enter the Lillard sweepstakes, not settle for (CJ) McCollum,” O’Connor wrote. “But there’s pressure on the Sixers front office to maximize Joel Embiid’s prime. And just like Simmons could be better in Portland, McCollum could be better in Philadelphia.”