After the Los Angeles Lakers season-opener against the Portland Trail Blazers last night, rumors are running rampant about All-Star Damian Lillard’s future with the team that drafted him back in 2012.
After years of mediocrity in Portland, either dropping out in the first or second round of the playoffs, or missing them altogether, the question has arisen regarding whether or not Lillard can continue to commit to the Blazers long-term when there is no success looming on the horizon, especially in the Western Conference.
With Lillard — at 28 years of age — now entering his prime, should he waste the best years of his career with Portland when there’s almost no chance of them winning a title competing against the likes of the Warriors, Rockets, and now Lakers?
These questions have led to several rumors insinuating that Lillard may be on the way out in Portland, and these will only grow stronger if the Blazers have another forgettable season this year.
Lillard is under contract with Portland until 2021, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be traded elsewhere, especially if the right deal comes through for him, and apparently, the Lakers may have just that.
After signing LeBron James to a four-year deal worth in excess of $150 million, the Lakers were thrust into the forefront of Damian Lillard rumors, as James has expressed in the past how much he loves Lillard’s game.
According to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, LeBron actually wants to play with Lillard some day, and this has been a wish of James’ since before he even signed with Los Angeles. On top of that, Zach Lowe of ESPN has confirmed in the past that LeBron respects Lillard’s game.
“The most enticing mega-trade on the board not involving Anthony Davis: Lillard to the Lakers for a package centered around Lonzo Ball. Lillard is a perfect fit next to LeBron, and LeBron respects Lillard’s game, per sources familiar with the matter. The Lakers could absorb Lillard into cap space this summer without sending out giant matching salaries — salaries they don’t have on the books.”
The above comment was made by Lowe himself, meaning there may be some truth the rumors surrounding a potential Lonzo Ball-among-others/Damian Lillard trade this season.
There are two packages that may have the highest chance of convincing the Trail Blazers to part way with their franchise star, and they both involve young point guard Lonzo Ball.
Keep in mind that the Lakers will have enough cap space — yes, even with LeBron James — to sign another max-level free agent next summer, so if they happened to trade for Lillard, the salaries wouldn’t necessarily have to match up.
Trade Package No. 1
Lonzo Ball & Kyle Kuzma
If the Lakers happened to offer up two of their most-prized rookies last year in the form of Ball and Kyle Kuzma, who surprised everyone after being selected 27th overall in the draft, it’d be hard for the Blazers to say no to the youth the Lakers were offering.
Portland would still have C.J. McCollum, who would turn into their focal point on offense, while Ball and Kuzma would be the supporting pieces that may turn the Blazers into a contender down the line.
Trade Package No. 2
Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac And A First Round Pick
The other trade package that could work out for both teams involves Ball again, as well as former Villanova Wildcat Josh Hart, Ivica Zubac, and a first-round pick in one of the next three years, considering the Lakers probably won’t be needing it with LeBron on the roster.
Ball would again be setting the table for McCollum in this scenario, but Portland would also be acquiring both Hart and Zubac, two young players who have shown flashes of brilliance when given the opportunity in Los Angeles.
These two potential trades may be the only way the Lakers could acquire Lillard and pair him with LeBron James, giving LA that much-needed second All-Star to compete with the Warriors and Rockets out west.