The Damian Lillard Trade Talk Is Picking Up Steam

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The Damian Lillard Trade Talk Is Picking Up Steam

Chicago Bulls

Pull out your photoshopped jersey swaps and crank up your trade machines, because the flood gates have just opened on Damian Lillard.

Since the Trail Blazers suffered their fourth first-round exit in five seasons, speculation has started to grow that Lillard could look to leave Portland this summer. Now, with the NBA Draft (July 29th) and the beginning of free agency (August 2nd) around the corner, it appears things have quickly moved past the “rumor” phase. Henry Abbott of True Hoop reported Friday morning that Lillard will request a trade in the coming days, per a source close to Lillard.

Shortly following that announcement, ESPN’s Grant Afseth dropped word that Lillard could consider the New York Knicks as a preferred landing spot if a trade was requested.

FWIW: Lillard’s teammate Jusuf Nurkic – whose future with Portland is also in question as he sits on a partially guaranteed deal – seems to believe both these reports carry little weight. While he could be correct, I do not think anyone is having a hard time believing any of this after the tension that has built between Lillard and the franchise. 


With Lillard currently focused on Team USA and the race for a gold medal, it feels like a lot of this hoopla should be put on hold until after the Olympics. However, with key transaction periods coming up so soon, now would be arguably the best time for Lillard’s camp to demand he be moved.

Working to Lillard’s disadvantage is the fact that he is still under contract for four more seasons (where he is owed roughly $176.1 million). While that would bolster its value around the league, it also does not give the Trail Blazers front office a massive sense of urgency. If a team like the 76ers or Warriors is prepared to offer a king’s ransom for Lillard’s services, though, there might be no use in hanging onto a disgruntled superstar. At some point, if Lillard is all the way out, starting a rebuild sooner than later is the way to go.

Like any other fanbase around the league, it is fun to fantasize about the Bulls’ involvement in all of this. After all, Zach LaVine is sharing the court on a daily basis with Lillard in Las Vegas, and he will continue to do so for several more weeks. Who is to say LaVine does not put together a highly detailed PowerPoint presentation for Lillard on an off day? Or begin to rebound extra hard for him in the open gym? Or perhaps make a pledge to exclusively listen to Dame Dolla music for the rest of the year?

While it is fun to imagine LaVine as a master of persuasion, any legitimate pursuit of Lillard would have to come from upstairs. And considering the Bulls recently sent two first-round draft picks to Orlando, it will be difficult to construct the most intriguing package for the superstar. Patrick Williams could be used as a way to get the ball rolling, but there will surely be teams who offer other high-upside talents that could appeal even more to the Portland front office.

Still, a minimal shot at Lillard does not mean Arturas Karnisovas should not have his eyes on the Trail Blazers. I do think the Blazers would look to sell off plenty of other pieces if they were forced to move on from Lillard. I wrote a little bit more about that when the Lillard trade rumors first gained steam, and you can check that out below:

OPE: Right before we were about to press publish, Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes published the following Q&A with the man himself!

Lillard called out the organization for its continued inability to take the next step. He did not directly say what his future holds, but he does not sound like a man who has the most confidence in where the franchise is headed. Haynes said Lillard is expected to comment on a report about his future (perhaps one of the two we have seen above) after the Team USA practice later today.

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.