Report: Kings Aggressively Pursuing Trade For Blazers Star Damian Lillard
The NBA offseason rumor circuit is beginning to heat up
Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard is displeased with the team’s recent head coaching change and roster construction, leading many to believe that a trade could be on the horizon for the 31-year-old.
“If you look at our team as it is going into next season, I don’t see how you can say this is a championship team,” Lillard said last week during a post-practice media session for USA Basketball.
“I think that’s the stage we’re at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my teammates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organization must look in the mirror because we’ve constantly come up short,’’ Lillard said. “We have to look in the mirror and say, ‘I have to be better’ because whatever it is we’re doing is not working and it’s not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on.”
Trouble began brewing earlier this offseason after Portland and longtime head coach Terry Stotts parted ways, with Lillard taking plenty of heat from Blazers fans on social media after the franchise hired former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups as Stotts’ replacement.
The enormous backlash from the Portland Trail Blazers’ process to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built have become factors that may push the franchise player — Damian Lillard — out the door, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
Lillard has remained loyal to Portland in large due to the tremendous fan base. But over the last few days, he’s seen some of those same fans attacking him on social media for a pending coaching hire he played no part in consummating, sources said.Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports (June 27, 2021)
With the Lillard-Blazers relationship on the rocks, interested teams are beginning to lineup and give Blazers general manager Neil Olshey their pitches for acquiring the MVP-candidate.
A team that has been among the most aggressive might surprise you: the Sacramento Kings.
According to Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer, the Kings are among the more aggressive teams in pursuit of Lillard, with other teams like the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers also having reached out about the six-time All-Star.
Multiple front-office sources say the Heat, Kings, Knicks, Rockets, and Sixers have recently been the most aggressive suitors for Lillard.Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer (July 20, 2021)
Any deal for Lillard would be costly, with the Kings assuredly having to offer a package of De’Aaron Fox and/or Tyrese Haliburton along with several first round picks–including next week’s number-nine pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Parting with Fox or Haliburton would be a tough pill to swallow, especially after Fox’s breakout 2020-21 campaign and Haliburton’s thrilling rookie season that resulted in a top-three Rookie of the Year Award finish for the 21-year-old.
But that’s the way these trades work.
In order to acquire elite talent, you have to give up valuable assets. It’s just the way it is. It isn’t supposed to be easy.
Since the Kings acquired Chris Webber in May of 1998, there have been no All-Star-caliber types of deals in Sacramento. The Rudy Gay and Harrison Barnes trades in 2013 and 2019, respectively, have been the most significant trades conducted by the franchise in the 23 years since the Webber deal.
Blockbuster deals don’t just fall out of trees. They are costly, and any deal for a talent like Damian Lillard will be very, very costly. Lillard is an elite scorer, arguably the best in the NBA and a top-three shooter with only two-time MVP Steph Curry and James Harden above him on the active three-point field goal leaders list.
While it is refreshing to see Kings general manager Monte McNair go after elite talent like Lillard, I would expect teams like Philadelphia and Miami to come out in front during the bidding–if Portland even chooses to make a deal.
Lillard has four seasons and a whopping $176 million remaining on his contract that will take him through the 2024-25 season, his age 35 season.
Even if the Kings can’t swing a deal for Lillard, this report shows that McNair and his staff are taking a very different approach this offseason. The aggressiveness is a huge positive for the forecast of this offseason, an important one that must not be squandered as the team hopes to snap a 15-year playoff drought next season.