Damian Lillard, surprise, is once again in trade rumors this offseason. The superstar point guard has been loyal to the Portland Trail Blazers for his entire career, but it may be time for him to finally move on.
Portland could make a push to compete around Lillard next season with trades involving incumbent young players and valuable draft picks. However, the Blazers could also start their rebuild by trading Lillard for a haul of assets that would set them up well for the future.
Lillard recently named the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets as preferred destinations in a potential trade, and it's well-known by know that the Blazers would accommodate his desired move to the Eastern Conference. Lillard is interested in Brooklyn because of his relationship star small forward Mikal Bridges.
Bridges broke out after being traded from the Phoenix Suns to the Nets at the deadline in a blockbuster deal for Kevin Durant. In 27 games with Brooklyn, Bridges averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists and a steal per game. He shot 47.5 percent from the field and 37.6 percent from three.
Bridges' friendship with Lillard could be very beneficial to Brooklyn's hopes of landing the future Hall-of-Famer. The Nets have a good core after the Durant and Kyrie Irving trades, with a deep haul of draft picks to bring in more talent. Adding a star could help them be very competitive in the Eastern Conference.
While Lillard is already 33, squarely in the back half of his prime, he is still at the top of his game. He averaged 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 7.3 assists while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor and 37.1 percent from downtown this season.
With that said, here is the perfect Damian Lillard trade that Brooklyn must offer the Blazers.
The perfect Damian Lillard trade Nets must offer Blazers
Nets get: Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic
Blazers get: Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Cam Thomas, Day'Ron Sharpe, Patty Mills, 2023 first-round pick (21st), 2025 first-round pick (via Phoenix), 2027 first-round pick (via Phoenix), and a 2029 first-round pick swap
This would be quite the blockbuster trade. The Blazers acquire three veterans, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, and Patty Mills, to make salaries match. They also get a couple of young players in Cam Thomas and Day'Ron Sharpe. Thomas has shown flashes of being a prolific scorer when afforded extended minutes, while Sharpe is a young center who can develop in a more prominent role. They also get three first-round picks and a pick swap. Portland is surely interested in unloading Jusuf Nurkic's contract in a Lillard trade, too.
The inclusion of Mills allows this trade to work without including Ben Simmons, who is on a pricey long-term deal and has struggled for the last few seasons. The Blazers could later look for trade partners to re-route the veterans acquired in this trade to other teams if they seek extra draft picks.
For the Nets, this trade allows them to keep their core together. They don't have to move Nic Claxton, who broke out as one of the best defensive centers in basketball this season. While taking on Nurkic isn't ideal, he would be a quality backup center. The concern with Nurkic is he is injury prone and on a big contract, but Brooklyn could try and send him to another team down the line.
When you're acquiring a player of Lillard's caliber and not giving up too much depth, it's a big win. Although this trade costs three first-round picks and a pick swap, the Nets would still have multiple draft picks acquired in trades surrounding Durant, Irving and James Harden. Brooklyn could roll out a starting lineup of Lillard, Bridges, Cameron Johnson (if retained in free agency), Dorian Finney-Smith and Claxton. Royce O'Neale could slot in as the starting small forward if Johnson is not brought back.
That would be a great starting five, with some depth off the bench. Free agency would be the way to fill out the rest of the rotation. Simmons would remain the question mark on this team, as it's unknown how he will play. A few years ago, Simmons was one of the best young players in basketball. Now, he's a shell of himself who has lost a ton of confidence. Brooklyn could try and send him to a young team willing to take a chance on him in exchange for extra depth.
The Nets' offseason could make them a contender if they make a move for Lillard. They would have great depth, and the addition of a star could make them an elite team in the Eastern Conference. While Lillard has been in trade rumors for years, it's never been more likely he will be traded than this offseason.
Brooklyn should pursue him, as Lillard has a relationship with Bridges and would be willing to go to the Nets.