Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard is one of the few remaining guys in the NBA that puts an extremely high price on loyalty. He’s one of those lifers, and we definitely respect that.
As of writing, Lillard has already signed a couple of huge extension deals with the Blazers, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, it appears that he will be with Portland for the rest of his career. Nevertheless, Lillard is also the type of player that always seems to be talked about when it comes to potential, landscape-altering blockbuster trades. Such is the life of a bonafide superstar.
Below, we’ve rounded up three of the craziest trade rumors involving Lillard through the years.
1. Bucks (2017)
With the February 2017 trade deadline fast approaching, Damian Lillard became the center of several rumors that would see him part ways with the Blazers. Opposing teams were reportedly doing their due diligence and asking about Lillard’s availability.
NBA insider Sam Amico confirmed the reports, but he also pointed out that Portland was not interested.
#Blazers update: Teams indeed asking about Damian Lillard, but am told those calls being rebuffed.
— Sam Amico (@AmicoHoops) February 21, 2017
Nevertheless, this did not slow down the rumor mill one bit. The craziest rumor pertaining to a potential Lillard trade linked the All-Star point guard to the Milwaukee Bucks to join forces with Giannis Antetokounmpo. What made the potential deal even more insane was the fact that it was Jabari Parker who was mentioned as a key trading piece for the Bucks.
Wildest rumor: Damian Lillard to Bucks for in a deal that could include Jabari Parker….tough to believe. Parker is on 2nd knee surgery.
— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) February 22, 2017
Parker is one of those guys that was never really able to live up to his full potential due to several career-altering injuries, and at that time, he was pretty banged up already. Parker was on an expiring deal though, so perhaps this was where this potential trade deal gained some merit.
The Bucks eventually let Parker walk away as a free agent the following season, and obviously, Lillard never joined the Bucks. Nonetheless, how crazy would it have been to see a Giannis-Lillard duo in Milwaukee?
A year later, Lillard was reportedly on his way to The Big Apple to join the New York Knicks. Unbelievable as it may seem, this deal actually almost came to fruition. The source? Lillard himself:
“I thought I was headed there a few years ago; I was hearing trade rumors,” Lillard said this 2020, via Lisa Robinson of Vanity Fair. “The Garden is my favorite place to play.”
Lillard did not detail the particulars of the deal, nor did he confirm when this actually was, but clearly, he was left with the impression that he was going to become a Knick. The Madison Square Garden has a certain appeal to players, and as it turns out, Lillard was no different.
If we were to put a date on this, then 2018 would have been the most logical timetable for this potential trade. Just ask ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith:
“And if Damian Lillard is going to leave the comfortable and financially beneficial confines of Portland, it’s only for two places from what I’m being told,” Smith stated on a 2018 ESPN podcast. “He’s only interested in New York or LA. One of the two. New York or LA, and by LA, I mean the Lakers, not the Clippers. That’s what Damian Lillard wants. His preference would be for the Portland Trail Blazers to find somebody, somebody big time to join him and CJ McCollum in Portland. That’s Damian Lillard’s preference. But if they can’t improve the team and if they can’t find anybody, then he’s interested in going one of two places: my sources tell me it’s the Lakers or the Knicks.”
That makes a lot of sense. Portland was a good team, but at that time, they were never really considered as a serious contender for the title. Perhaps both the Blazers front office and Lillard’s camp entertained the possibility of starting anew.
3. Lakers (2019)
Despite repeatedly affirming his commitment to the Blazers — be it verbally or on paper — trade rumors never seem to steer clear of Lillard throughout his career. The Los Angeles Lakers have been one of those teams that always seem to be in the running, and it was in 2019 that LA reportedly came the closest to bringing Lillard to Hollywood.
Rumors began picking up steam after LeBron James started his first season with the Lakers. This was prior to their coup on Anthony Davis, and at that time, everyone knew that the LA were going to bring in another superstar to play alongside LeBron. Naturally, Lillard was inserted into the conversation.
According to ESPN’s Kevin O’Connor, James loved the idea of playing alongside Lillard:
“LeBron wants to play with Damian Lillard. He’s one of the guys he’d like to play with and that’s chatter around the league. It has been since before LeBron signed with the Lakers, it was one of the many indicators that he was heading there.”
Zach Lowe, also of ESPN, seconded his colleague’s notion and even predicted that Lonzo Ball would be the one making the move to Portland in exchange for Lillard (h/t Nate Loop of B/R):
The most enticing mega-trade on the board not involving Anthony Davis: Lillard to the Lakers for a package centered around Lonzo Ball. Lillard is a perfect fit next to LeBron, and LeBron respects Lillard’s game, per sources familiar with the matter. The Lakers could absorb Lillard into cap space this summer without sending out giant matching salaries — salaries they don’t have on the books.
Ultimately, the Lakers acquired Davis in the summer of 2019, and Lillard signed a mega-extension with the Blazers, which for the record, will see him earn a whopping $54.3 million by the 2024-25 season.