It is safe to say that Damian Lillard has arrived as a superstar. He is averaging 29.3 PPG and 8.0 APG this season while carrying a Portland Trail Blazers squad that has battled injuries all year. While a player like Dame should always be in the playoffs, an injury to Jusuf Nurkic and lack of defense has harmed the team all season long.
With Nurkic back, they made the 8th seed and are competing with the Lakers for a chance to progress to the Western Conference Semi-Final. Unfortunately, the Blazers are down 3-1 with their backs against the wall. They have been outplayed on both ends, and cannot handle LeBron James and Anthony Davis defensively.
The same issues that have been plaguing them all season are back again, namely poor perimeter defense. The Trail Blazers are simply too weak defensively and only rely on their scoring guards to get them through games. If the Blazers get bounced next game, Dame should start looking elsewhere to play next season.
For the sake of Damian Lillard and his unbelievable talents, here are the best destinations for him if he wants to win a championship next season.
3. Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics have a great team. Led by Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum, they are currently third in the East and have a great coach in Brad Stevens. But an actual superstar like Damian Lillard alongside Tatum catapults them to the first seed if they can retain most of their parts. Luckily for the Celtics, they have plenty of assets to offer other teams including a mix of picks and talent.
Boston has three first-round and five second-round picks in the upcoming draft, as well as valuable players including Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward (player-option), Marcus Smart, and Enes Kanter (player-option). If needed, Boston probably would not mind throwing Kemba Walker for a swap deal if the Blazers don't budge.
If Lillard wants out and Portland needs to revamp their roster without their franchise player, Boston might be the best suitor.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers have been involved in trade rumors all season. They have not performed well and the playing styles of their two stars don't seem to mesh well. Simmons is a poor shooter from deep (8.3%) and struggles with injury, leaving head coach Brett Brown with headaches when building a contender. Embiid is a bonafide star, but he has his own injury issues and is unreliable when counting on him to remain healthy for a playoff run.
For both teams, a swap of All-Star point guards might do the trick.
Simmons and Al Horford for Lillard give both teams excellent building blocks. Simmons helps Portland's defense, and he can help CJ McCollum (22.4 PPG) be the #1 option on offense now that Lillard is out of town. Horford helps their paint defense and adds more depth to Nurkic and Collins, and prevents Portland from over-spending on Hassan Whiteside who goes through the motions with his motivation.
For the Sixers, Lillard and Embiid would be the best duo in the East and they might actually make the Finals. Lillard is a beast from deep and Embiid is a beast down low, creating a monster big man-little man duo.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers seem to always be in the news. Especially with trade rumors, Los Angeles is always a major talking point. Whenever a guy like LeBron James joins the franchise, the goal is to always win now and surround him with the best possible talent to deliver an NBA title immediately. That is what the Lakers have done, by trading for Anthony Davis and adding key role players around the squad. But a third star-like Damian Lillard would catapult their NBA title chances and put them as the absolute favorite to win it all.
Dame finally might be in a position to win a title as well, something that just seems entirely unlikely in Portland.
With a package around Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Alex Caruso, Avery Bradley (player option), and picks, the Blazers might re-group. Kuzma can start on probably every team, so the Blazers can rebuild with him. Dame should not settle for mediocrity, so the Blazers might have to make moves. Going to the Lakers would be the best move for Lillard, who would run the franchise with Anthony Davis once LeBron James rides into the sunset and calls it quits on a legendary career.