Not long after the Portland Trail Blazers and LA Lakers were eliminated from the 2021 postseason, rumors of a Damian Lillard trade to Los Angeles started circulating. Lillard practically fueled rumors of wanting out of Portland with an Instagram post using lyrics from the Victory Lap album by Nipsey Hussle.
If Damian Lillard is desperate to get out of the purgatory that is the Blazers, could he possibly find his way to the LA Lakers?
It’s no secret that LeBron James is a fan of Lillard and, if given the chance, would love to play alongside the six-time All-Star. James and Lillard would make a devastating perimeter combo, especially with Anthony Davis manning the paint.
But in order for Damian Lillard to wear a purple and gold jersey, a lot of things have to be considered. Let’s take a look at the possibilities.
What would Portland want in exchange for Damian Lillard?
For the Blazers to trade Damian Lillard, they would have to be certain that they have exhausted every means possible to win the title with the 30-year old as their lead superstar. Or, like the OKC Thunder before them, they’ve decided to blow the team up and start from scratch.
The Blazers haven’t shown any indication yet that they’re the latter. If they were to trade Lillard, it would have to be for a player or two who could take them deeper into the playoffs. No doubt it would take at least one All-Star to approximate Lillard’s value to the team.
What can the LA Lakers offer in exchange for Damian Lillard?
The LA Lakers don’t have many assets after having traded them away in a deal for Anthony Davis. That involved players like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and multiple unprotected first-round picks. They currently have five players under contract for next season, while the rest will be free agents in the offseason.
Offering Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marc Gasol, who are all under contract, won’t work. Their combined salaries won’t match Damian Lillard’s upcoming 2021-22 salary of $39.3 million. More than that, none of them are All-Stars.
The LA Lakers could re-sign a few of their free agents this summer. They are Dennis Schroder, Alex Caruso, Talen Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma. None of them are All-Star-caliber players, though.
Save for Kuzma and Horton-Tucker, whose potential intrigues many teams, there’s probably little to no interest in the other two from Portland’s side.
This means there’s only one trade that would make Neil Olshey engage the LA Lakers in a discussion involving Damian Lillard.
Would the LA Lakers trade Anthony Davis for Damian Lillard?
The LA Lakers will have to think long and hard if they want to pull the trigger on this potential swap of superstars.
The Lakers were able to ride Davis' coattails all the way to the championship last season. His combination of size and guard skills are unique and they perfectly complement James’ game. At the same time, Davis is that rare breed of player who can play both ends of the floor equally well. But we rarely saw him exhibit these skills this season because of health issues.
But it could be the kicker that pushes the LA Lakers to trade Davis. He is injury-prone and the likelihood that he won’t be completely healthy for another championship run exists. It’s not out of the question to believe that Pelinka and the organization would consider Davis’ health when they decide on the future of the team.
Davis is two years younger than Damian Lillard but he might as well be older given his medical history. The eight-time All-Star had played less than 70 games in his first four seasons and he has missed at least nine games in his last three regular seasons, including 36 games this year alone.
In contrast, Lillard has not missed more than nine games in a season in his career and has played at least 80 games on four different occasions.
Only two things would probably keep the LA Lakers from pushing through with this deal. One would be the fact that James and Lillard are both ball dominant players and the other is LeBron’s friendship with Davis.
More than likely, the LA Lakers are going to pass up a trade for Damian Lillard this summer based on these factors if Davis is going to be the price. Nevertheless, the LA Lakers hold the cards in their hands and what they do this summer is going to be headline material, whatever it may be.
Dear reader, could you please take a short, 30-second survey to help us improve and give you better NBA/basketball coverage on our site? Here's the link for it.