In the summer of 2016, the Golden State Warriors did the unthinkable by signing Kevin Durant to reinforce a team that finished with a 73-9 record the season before and was one LeBron James block away from back-to-back championships. To no surprise, adding KD made the Warriors virtually unbeatable in a 7-game series, and had it not been for injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in the 2019 NBA finals, the Warriors would have become the first team to three-peat since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers.
This summer, another one of the game’s best players is rumored to be on the move, Portland Trailblazer Damian Lillard. Lillard has always been the poster boy for loyalty in today’s NBA, and for a superstar of his magnitude to continue to settle for what many believe to be a substandard supporting cast around him in Portland is nothing short of remarkable. However, many believe that with coaching changes not going the way he might have hoped, Dame’s time in Portland could soon come to an end.
Unlike KD, however, Dame is not a free agent. Therefore, suitors will have to put together trade offers and packages to send Portland’s way if they wish to acquire the star guard, and there is reason to believe that all the other 29 teams in the NBA have started preparing. According to The Athletic, having the best shooting backcourt of all-time on their roster has not deterred Bob Myers and the Warriors front office from throwing their name in the hat for the Damian Lillard sweepstakes.
“Would the Warriors get involved? Yes. They’d make a call and have already internally discussed the idea, as I’m sure most contenders have, considering the rising smoke out of Portland.”Anthony Slater, The Athletic
Damian Lillard going to the Warriors would be almost as big of a move as KD joining Golden State in 2016. What makes it even more exciting for Warriors fans is that in order to get Dame to Golden State, they will not have to part ways with their core. A team of Steph, Klay, Dray, and Dame would certainly give the Brooklyn Nets a run for their money while putting on a display of half-court jumpers on a nightly basis. Here is what the Warriors would have to give up to get Lillard.
“Their theoretical offer would be competitive. If the Blazers decided to trade Lillard, a complete rebuild seems like the wisest path, and there aren’t many better rebuilding trade packages dangling out there right now than James Wiseman, the seventh and 14th pick in the upcoming draft, plus more future firsts, attached to Andrew Wiggins as salary match filler.”Anthony Slater, The Athletic
Similar to when LeBron left Cleveland the first time, Lillard leaving would set Portland on a full rebuild. CJ McCollum is a nice young player, but he is not ready to be the first option on a playoff team, and any team looking to acquire Dame will not look to gut their roster just to do so. If the goal is to rebuild, the Warriors have one of the more intriguing offers on the table, given the strength of this year’s draft class.
Rebuilding through the draft is a challenging exercise, especially for small market teams like Portland. Not only do you have to get the picks right, but you have to have the ability to quickly build a contender if you manage to strike gold with a talent like Lillard. The fact of the matter is, it is rare that you will find a young star with Dame’s talent and loyalty, and as the window for young stars to win championships seems to get shorter as generations pass. A trade with the Warriors might be the best deal for Portland, but it is also the riskiest one.
Ultimately where Dame ends up is up to the Blazers front office, as he is under contract until the 2024-25 season. If Portland does decide to deal him, it probably makes more sense for them to take on some proven young players versus go for the big swing in the draft and rely on the organization’s ability to groom talent with some NBA experience. For example, a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers centered around young players such as Kyle Kuzma and Talen Horton-Tucker, or with Philadelphia for Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle.
A total rebuild from the draft happens too often and fails most of the time in the long run. Ask the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that had Kevin Durant, Russel Westbrook, and James Harden without a title to show for it. General Sam Presti has now been on a pick-acquisition spree, and while that is a gamble that may pay off in the distant future, it won’t put fans in the stands in the present. The harsh reality is that small-market teams have it tougher in this league, and their success often hinges on whether they can make the right moves available to them instead of constantly just trying to swing big, hoping to land a knockout punch.
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