The perfect trade Grizzlies must offer Blazers for Damian Lillard
With the Tokyo Olympics just weeks away, Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is focused on helping Team USA win a gold medal as a first-time Olympian. Lillard, however, has also been followed by trade rumors, especially after the hiring process of new head coach Chauncey Billups and the Blazers’ inability to surround him with a roster that could contend for a title.
The six-time All-Star recently denied the rumors at the Team USA training camp. But with the NBA about to head into the offseason and the Blazers coming off another early playoff exit, talk of his departure isn’t going to die down soon. There are several teams that have a chance to land the 30-year-old in a trade, but some have more young talent and assets to offer that can make the Blazers front office consider a move.
After a three-year absence in the playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies made a return to the postseason as the eighth seed after finishing with a 38-34 record. With guard Ja Morant establishing himself as one of the league’s best young players, the Grizzlies knocked out Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the Play-In Tournament before losing in five games to the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the first round.
Aside from Morant, the Grizzlies also have another talented young player in big man Jaren Jackson Jr. and a talented supporting cast that includes Jonas Valanciunas, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, and Grayson Allen. With a future All-Star in Morant and an exciting roster around him, Memphis is primed to remain in playoff contention for years to come.
However, in a tough Western Conference with several other contenders, the team may be one high-profile player away from title contention, and Lillard could be that player for the Grizzlies. Of course, Memphis executive president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman could stand pat in the offseason and wait for Morant, Jackson, and the rest of the team to continue their growth for at least another season. But when a player of Lillard’s caliber becomes available in a potential trade, all teams should at least consider pulling the trigger to acquire the six-time All-NBA Team member.
It will likely take a king’s ransom of young players and draft assets for the Blazers to even consider parting ways with their franchise player. Fortunately, the Grizzlies have both of those things, as they have several young players and own all of their future draft picks, including a 2022 first-rounder from the Jazz and a 2024 first-rounder from the Warriors. Other teams could offer a better deal for Lillard’s services, but a package of Jackson, Brooks, Anderson, and two future first-round picks should at least make the Blazers consider the Grizzlies should he become available.
With Lillard sharing the backcourt with Morant, Memphis will have one of the league’s best guard combinations. There will be questions about how the two ball-dominant guards will fit together, although Lillard could slide up to the shooting guard spot while letting the reigning Rookie of the Year continue to run point for the Grizzlies. But is he willing to adapt to this role? And how will his arrival change the 21-year-old’s game?
There is also the question of whether Jackson will be enough as a centerpiece in a potential Lillard trade. The 21-year-old big man had a shortened season as he recovered from injury, but showed strides of improvement once he returned to court for the Grizzlies. In Brooks and Anderson, the Blazers have a couple of young players, while the first-round picks give them more assets in a potential rebuild should Lillard depart.
While a potential Lillard-Morant pairing is an intriguing possibility, the reality is that other teams could have better trade packages to offer the Blazers. However, stranger things have happened in the NBA offseason, and the fact remains that Memphis is a young team on the rise in need of an experienced leader, which is something that Dame Time can bring to the Grizzlies.