Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers suffered an early playoff exit after being swept by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The outcome of the 2017-18 NBA season may force the Trail Blazers to make a big roster move in the upcoming offseason, which includes trading for a superstar who will be available on the market. Is Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs on Portland’s list?
According to Eric Griffith of SB Nation‘s Blazer’s Edge, the Trail Blazers would be “foolish” not to trade for Kawhi Leonard. When healthy, the 26-year-old All-Star forward will undeniably boost the Trail Blazers on both ends of the floor. However, Portland is not the only team who will go after Leonard in the upcoming offseason.
When the rumors about his potential departure in San Antonio started, several NBA teams have been linked to the Spurs superstar. Teams with a plethora of trade assets like the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Boston Celtics top the list of potential suitors for Leonard. If the Trail Blazers want to strengthen their chance of acquiring Leonard, they may need to include Damian Lillard or C.J. McCollum in the trade package they will send to the Spurs.
As Griffith noted, the Trail Blazers could start with a package centered on C.J. McCollum and Zach Collins. But the suggested offer could only work if the Spurs won’t receive calls from other NBA teams, which is less likely to happen. If they are serious about acquiring Kawhi Leonard, sending Damian Lillard to the Spurs would be Portland’s best move.
“The appeal to a Lillard-for-Leonard trade is utilitarian and grounded in Vulcan-level pragmatism. Lillard’s probably at the peak of his powers, likely sneaking onto an All-NBA first team this year, and is immensely popular with several years left on his contract. His trade value will never be higher, creating the rare opportunity to flip a top-15ish player into a top-5 player.”
Trading Damian Lillard, who is considered the face of the Trail Blazers’ franchise, is definitely a tough decision for Portland. However, it could be worth it in the long run if they will be acquiring a player of Leonard’s caliber. The only problem with the deal for the Trail Blazers is Leonard’s contract. Per Spotrac, Leonard can exercise his player option to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019. Before making any deal, the Trail Blazers should first get an assurance that the All-Star forward intends to stay long-term.
Meanwhile, for the Spurs, the only concern is the relationship between Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. During Aldridge’s stint in Portland, he reportedly has a personality conflict with Lillard. However, there is no doubt that the on-court combination of the two All-Stars will make the Spurs more competitive in the Western Conference.
So far, there is no official confirmation from the Trail Blazers and the Spurs if they will be engaging in a trade discussion involving Lillard and Leonard. Expect more rumors to heat up as the offseason draws near.