Could the Lakers trade for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard? Apparently — despite the Lakers literally having almost nothing to put together a compelling package of assets and matching salary that beats out other teams without including LeBron James or Anthony Davis — it’s a possibility, at least according to Mike Berman of the New York Post:
Lillard said during the pandemic, “I thought I was headed [to the Knicks] a few years ago. I was hearing trade rumors. The Garden is my favorite place to play.”
If scoring point guard Lillard asks for a trade, it’s believed the Knicks or Lakers would be his choices.
It’s unknown who believes this due to Berman’s lack of attribution, but the phrasing at least implies that some around the league think this to be the case. How aware those people are of Lillard’s plans is anyone’s guess — so take this report with a grain of salt — but when putting aside the aforementioned cap complications and the fact that Lillard hasn’t actually asked for a deal, it’s not hard to determine why some think the Lakers are a team he’d want to go to.
I mean, for one thing, stars generally put the Lakers on their trade demand list. It’s just pretty awesome to play in Los Angeles for the team the city actually likes, Southern California is a pleasant place to live, and the Lakers are the most visible franchise in the NBA. Some players’ shoe deals even contain incentives for playing for a team as high-wattage as the purple and gold, so they generally get linked to come here when they do ask out.
But there is also plenty of smoke that’s linked Lillard to the Lakers in the past specifically. Basically from the moment LeBron came aboard, there were rumors that Lillard would ask to go to the Lakers if he demanded a trade, and that the King wanted to play with Lillard.
Lillard has also made no secret of how much he appreciates James’ game, saying he should win MVP this season and calling him the best player in the NBA. He also didn’t explicitly reject the team in response to a fake trade rumor on April Fool’s Day (even if yes, he did laugh, so this is hardly an endorsement of the idea, either, angry Portland fans):
Dooooo yooooouuu knooooow what todaaaaay iiiiiis? lol https://t.co/PD3VeRQN8r— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 1, 2020
Still, Lillard is going to make $31 million in the first year of a five-year contract extension that kicks in next season. The Lakers could make the salary match with Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (if he opts in to his deal for next year) and Kyle Kuzma, but they have little in future draft picks as a result of the Anthony Davis trade, and it’s hard to imagine another team couldn’t outbid that pu pu platter.
Lillard is also 29, and while his game projects to age well, he also will be a little older and more expensive by the time he would ever realistically hit the market a few years down the line. That doesn’t rule him out as valuable, but it’s something the future Lakers would have to consider if this theoretical trade demand ever does come to pass.
For now, this is another instance of smoke potentially indicating fire, but this is more of a wisp in the distance that might be coming from a chimney than it is from a full-blown, forest-engulfing inferno like the Davis trade demand of last year. Lillard is worth keeping an eye on and continuing to photoshop into Lakers jerseys, but for now, the team is more likely to make his proclamation that the Blazers could beat the Lakers in the playoffs look foolish than they are to complete a trade for him.