For the last several months, there has been enough informed speculation from informed NBA reporters about Damian Lillard potentially being a trade target for the Los Angeles Lakers to think it was interesting, if not the most likely possibility just yet.
Things got more interesting when Lillard fired off some cryptic tweets about the Lakers, which was when all the smoke seemed to indicate there was some fire to this speculation, even if it was still a bit out there.
Everything is a stretch. Oh well https://t.co/p1R2gbadAz— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) July 4, 2018
Those tweets weren’t even the first time Lillard has expressed interest in the Lakers, or said he wouldn’t mind going there, either:
If blazers said they didn't want me... Utah Jazz or Lakers https://t.co/jep3V9qRsS— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) June 14, 2017
So while all that was hardly evidence of Lillard desiring to go to the Lakers, when combined with the always-plugged in Ramona Shelburne of ESPN saying she has heard that from people, it’s enough to make all these rumors seem somewhat legit.
“I’ve been hearing that in the wind for several months now, but the problem with that is, — and this is why you’re seeing passive-aggressive, LeBron-style subtweeting — he has a lot of years left on his deal and he’s beloved in the city of Portland and he’s a leader on that team, so I really think the only way that would ever become a real threat is if he asked for it publicly. Like if he actually went to the Trail Blazers ownership and said ‘I don’t want to be here anymore, I want to be traded.’
“He has not done that, so far all you’ve seen is some subtweeting, and some frustration expressed behind the scenes. But he’s not at that level.”
However, Shelburne clarified later on Twitter how unlikely this all still is:
And then I said he’s got a lot of time left on his deal... no way he’d push his way out...and no fan base hates the Lakers more than Portland so I don’t see anything happening. Sheesh.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) July 6, 2018
And as Shelburne pointed out, if Lillard isn’t at the point of publicly demanding a trade, the Blazers have little incentive to deal him with three more years left on his contract. Even if he did demand a trade, like the Lakers did with Kobe Bryant, the Blazers might just try harder to get him some help and convince him to stay than give him what he wants right away and send him to the Lakers.
However, if the Blazers did decide to make Lillard available, he is the type of scorer and playmaker LeBron James had a ton of success with in Cleveland in Kyrie Irving. Given the Lakers’ reported desire to get more toughness and playmaking around James, acquiring Lillard would make some sense because he has both qualities in spades.
And given how many more years Lillard has left on his contract, he also might make more sense to trade for than Kawhi Leonard, especially in the wake of Leonard reportedly/maybe preferring the LA Clippers to the Lakers now because of James’ presence.
If the Lakers were to offer something like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Luol Deng for Lillard and Al-Farouq Aminu, that type of deal could make sense for both parties, but the Blazers also might (justifiably) want more — and to not take on bad salary — to part with a star under contract, the NBA’s most valuable commodity. It also doesn’t seem like they’re considering trading him yet:
Neil Olshey on the Lakers wanting to trade for Damian Lillard "Lebron doesn't get to pick his team. It's much ado about noting"— Art Edwards (@artedwardskgw) July 6, 2018
So this stuff seems to still be a long way from being real, but is certainly a situation worth monitoring for the Lakers and anyone who follows them, because this team is clearly going to make trades or upgrade with stars, it’s just not clear which ones yet.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.