After making the NBA playoffs in each of the last eight seasons, it appears the Portland Trail Blazers are about to hit the proverbial reset button.
With the Blazers on their way to finishing with one of the worst records in pro basketball, it seems more and more inevitable that they will at least consider trading Damian Lillard, their franchise player for the past decade.
He remains one of the league’s premier players, and he is also arguably the best crunch-time performer in the game.
Damian Lillard posted the highest clutch TS% in NBA history (71.6%, min 50 attempts) while being 1st in points (162) and 18th in minutes (126)
In the playoffs, he shot 80% EFG and TS. 16 points in 15 clutch minutes
9 total game-tying/go-ahead shots in last minute
Clutch GOD pic.twitter.com/wNIMwoJqUR
— TheCourtsideNews (@TheCourtsideNws) June 17, 2021
At age 31, he deserves a real shot at an NBA championship ring.
He has made it clear that he does have a preference when it comes to where he may be dealt.
— NBA Retweet (@RTNBA) February 3, 2022
What teams could be a good fit for him?
3. New York Knicks
If Lillard backs off his request to stay out west, could the New York Knicks give him what he wants?
Just a year ago, they were perhaps the biggest surprise team, finishing with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, but this season they have been a disappointment.
The team has Julius Randle, who has become the best version of himself and a bona fide star, as well as some capable role players, some of whom are just starting to emerge.
New York also has a few players whose contracts they may want to get rid of.
If the Knicks and Blazers could ever agree on a reasonable trade package (we’re not saying it’s very realistic, or that it’s been rumored), Lillard would give the Knicks the prime-time performer it has lacked since at least the days of Carmelo Anthony.
Lillard, Randle, and a cadre of capable role players, along with a renewed emphasis on defense and team play could reinvigorate the Knicks and Madison Square Garden, not to mention make next year’s race for the Eastern Conference even more interesting.
2. Los Angeles Clippers
If Lillard is steadfast in his desire to remain on the western seaboard, how about reuniting him with Powell and Robert Covington by sending him to the Clippers?
The Clippers have had, when healthy, one of the strongest rosters in the league the past couple of years, but they have failed to even come close to meeting expectations.
Lillard could check those boxes with flying colors.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
If the Blazers agreed to some type of Westbrook-Lillard swap (they both make approximately the same amount of money), Westbrook could put butts in seats next season at Moda Center, and at the end of the season, his $47 million contract would come off the books, giving Portland lots of cap relief.
Meanwhile, Lillard could take lots of pressure off an aging James while giving him relief and help with his ball-handling duties, as well as an elite closer he can trust when the chips are down.