The Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum backcourt has seem to run it’s course. After a disappointing 4-2 series loss to a depleted Denver Nuggets team, Dame posted a cryptic message. “How long should I stay dedicated? How long til opportunity meet preparation” are lyrics from the late great Nipsey Hussle. Dame used those words in his most recent post and it has Blazer fans on edge. One day following elimination the team also parted ways with long time head coach Terry Stotts. Some believe this move was long overdue but Portland is finally seeking new direction. However, it’s tough to decipher when a Lillard trade could happen given the power he has in deciding the next head coach. It seems pointless to let him pick the coach and then be treaded but nevertheless here are my offers.
76ers Receive: Damian Lillard
To be fair the 76ers don’t need Lillard being that they are championship contenders as we speak. But earlier in the season when Ben Simmons wasn’t playing so well, there was much talk floating around about James Harden in Philly. Those talks died because Philly was playing so well in large part to Ben. However, the talks of splitting up Ben and Joel Embiid have always been there. If this playoff run doesn’t go according to plan, I cant imagine Philly running it back. Even though Simmons is my pick for defensive player of the year, you won’t find many people who would prefer him over Embiid.
So to me having TWO MVP caliber players on your team seems pretty good. Any trade every Eastern Conference contenders does they have to be thinking about the Nets. Yes Ben does seem like the perfect counter given his defensive prowess and 1-5 switching ability, but I would argue the best defense is offense. No matter who you throw at the Nets defensively nothing is going to stop them. Great offense beats good defense every time in this league. Truth is, a player like Dame is more valuable than a versatile stud yet offensively challenged Ben Simmons. Dame and Joel will certainly need time to get acclimated to one another, but that’s a relationship I’m willing to take a chance on.
New Orleans Pelicans
Pelicans Receive: Damian Lillard and C.J. Elleby
Although this trade will be very tricky to make work financially, a deal centered around this package is beautiful both ways. The Blazers get Lonzo Ball who is a 3 and D point guard with elite floor general skiils. Kira Lewis is a very solid young prospect that has shown flashes worthy of valuable minutes. Above all, they get a star-type small forward, something that has always been a hole for this team. Brandon Ingram is a proven scorer in this league and he’s only 23. His 6’9” lanky frame coupled with supreme offensive skills make for a more than competent option if the team in fact has to move Dame.
And for the Pelicans they can give Zion Williamson a taste of winning basketball. Lillard and Zion aren’t exactly on the same timeline, but this will legit be a one two punch not many teams can say they’ve had. Along with Dame’s nuclear scoring ability Zion’s game will become even better. Majority of the season he spent games getting doubled and sometimes tripled because the spacing was so bad. More spacing just allows Zion to be a better version of himself and being better than 27 ppg on 61% is scary.
Nuggets Receive: Damian Lillard
It probably will be some bad blood on the phone between these two teams but this is a win win. In the event that Portland has to trade Dame the Nuggets definitely have something to offer. After this year, everyone is finally starting to witness the potential some saw in MPJ. Since April he has averaged 24 ppg and 8 rebounds while shooting 56% from the field. At his 6’10” frame his accurate shooting and offensive skillset is one of a kind. In addition to a potential cornerstone we move on to Jamal Murray who is pretty good himself. Last years breakout bubble star was on his way to having another solid season before he tore his ACL in April. Murray was Denver’s second leading scorer and I am confident that when he comes back he can still be able to put over over 20 a game.
The Nuggets in this deal lose two of their own but oh would they be scary. This situation puts Denver firmly at the top of the West in my opinion. Certainly you will have Dame and Nikola Jokic who will be all you need on offense but that’s not all they will get. The Nuggets role players have continued to step up time and time again. Players like Aaron Gordon, Monte Morris and Will Barton are the kind of role players Denver needs. Aaron Gordon and Barton can easily step into those wing positions. On the other hand, the only question will be that power forward spot. Paul Millsap and JaMychal Green both have the opportunity to walk this free agency. Denver can try to develop Bol Bol some more or get a serviceable 4 of the market but Dame is worth the troubles.
Sadly, the window for this current Blazer core has closed. Dame is one of the most loyal and prideful guys we have in the league but there always comes a time. I fully expect Portland to listen to every Dame and C.J. offer and finally start over.
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Nik is a longtime Celtics fan from Washington DC. NBA writing has always been one of his dream jobs and now he focuses on articles about the Celtics and rumor based news.