NBA free agency has seemingly trickled to a crawl after an initial flurry of moves on June 30th, with trades, signings and extensions happening all around the league. But even after all of the dust has settled, it feels like so many teams and players are holding off on further moves after the big announcement on July 1st: after over a decade with the same team, Damian Lillard finally requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers.
Lillard, who turns 33 on July 15th, has staunchly opposed leaving Portland over the past few seasons, expressing dedication and desire to stay with the Trail Blazers over leaving for greener pastures. But after rumblings around the draft and a desire for Portland to make moves to better their roster around Dame and the only significant move has been re-signing Jerami Grant, the superstar point guard made the call and requested out, and named Miami as his preferred destination, per NBA insider Chris B. Haynes.
As it is with a lot of superstar trade sweepstakes, there’s going to be a lot of posturing and rumors floating until a trade materializes. While Portland is also trying to accommodate Dame’s requests in terms of his new team, they also cannot afford to lose out on the best move for their franchise. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has reported as much, and the Trail Blazers won’t just settle for scraps; that’s where the Celtics and other teams come into play.
In a recent article from Brian Robb of MassLive, Robb puts together some potential trade offers that the Celtics can make to the Trail Blazers for Lillard as well as aggregating some reports on Jayson Tatum’s efforts to recruit Lillard. Marc J. Spears of AndScape and ESPN reported that the Celtics superstar has been recruiting Dame and trying to sway his interest towards Boston. The two played together on Team USA during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo that took home the gold:
In an appearance on NBA Today this weekend on ESPN, Marc Spears of Andscape hinted that the Celtics All-Star may be trying to recruit Lillard to Boston. “I’m hearing Jayson Tatum is knocking on that door now too to figure out a way to get (Lillard) to come to Boston,” Spears said.
We’ve already seen one blockbuster trade in Bradley Beal, and another in Kristaps Porzingis, but the Lillard situation is a whole different situation. Beal had a no-trade clause, something that has become a rarity in the modern NBA; Porzingis had a player option that he needed to take in order for any trade to occur, allowing him to land in his preferred destination with Boston. You can’t say the same thing about the Dame Lillard scenario.
The Miami Heat, while being named a preferred destination, would need to send out one of their core pieces to meet the demands of Portland as they enter a rebuild. With no desire to take on Tyler Herro, any Lillard trade involving the Heat would most likely involve rerouting the sharpshooter to another team with expiring salaries and/or young talent going to the Trail Blazers.
For the Celtics, adding another superstar of Lillard’s caliber would vault them clearly into the driver’s seat for title odds this upcoming season, and making them by far the best team in the Eastern Conference. But with the new CBA set to go into effect next offseason, there are major financial challenges that are posed to having a core of Lillard, Brown, Tatum and Porzingis.
As Robb puts it, the lack of chatter on the Jaylen Brown supermax extension makes sense in regards to Lillard, since Brown would be ineligible in any trade for one year once an extension is signed. Boston can realistically top any offer out there with Brown included, but if they can do so without including him, they would definitively separate themselves from the pack.
With the rest of the NBA waiting on the outcome of the Lillard sweepstakes, it’s likely we won’t hear any news on Jaylen Brown until whatever trade happens is finalized, regardless of he’s in Boston or not.