5 Players the Portland Trail Blazers Could Target to Help Damian Lillard Win an NBA Title

Before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, the Portland Trail Blazers have gone full bore with becoming sellers by offloading a significant chunk of their roster around Damian Lillard. The Blazers surprisingly sent Norman Powell to the Los Angeles Clippers only a few months after he inked his five-year, $90 million contract.

On Tuesday, Portland further signaled a total rebuild by trading C.J. McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. to the New Orleans Pelicans. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting the latest move created a $20.8 million trade exception while potentially opening up $60 million in salary-cap space for the upcoming summer to build the team around Lillard.

With the Blazers’ plan to entirely reshape the roster around Lillard, here are five players the franchise could pursue to pair alongside their star point guard.

Jaylen Brown

Over the last two seasons, the Boston Celtics have become engulfed in a brewing dilemma involving their two young stars in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

The Celtics possess two of the game’s best young talents, but there remains some significant doubt whether they can work together to lift the franchise toward NBA title contention. Those factors have fueled the narrative that Boston will choose which star to build the team around.

Although the Celtics haven’t indicated so, Tatum may become the eventual choice, potentially leaving Brown available through a trade. Brown is in the second year of his four-year, $106.3 million deal that runs through the $2023-24 campaign without a player or team option.

The Blazers possess a litany of draft picks along with young talents such as Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker that could sway the Celtics to swing a trade. Brown and Damian Lillard could form a backcourt that the franchise can build the team around for years ahead.

Bradley Beal

In many ways, Bradley Beal shares a similar unwavering commitment to the Washington Wizards that Lillard holds toward the Blazers.

However, there will come a point where Beal’s firm stance will soften as the Wizards still don’t possess a championship-caliber roster. Washington is operating under the notion that their star guard wants to be the centerpiece to their future. 

New York Times‘ Marc Stein recently reported that the Wizards are looking to acquire additional talent before the Feb. 10 deadline, but that could change if Beal asks for a trade.

The 28-year-old holds a $36.4 million player option for the 2022-23 campaign that he will likely decline in favor of a new massive contract. Since he’s hit the 10-year mark in his NBA career, he could sign a deal worth 35% of the salary cap next season.

All that makes Beal a potential prime target for the Blazers as he could fit alongside Damian Lillard to form one of the league’s best backcourt. The two are among the game’s best scorers that could quickly push Portland into a promising position in the Western Conference.

Karl-Anthony Towns

Over the last few years, the Minnesota Timberwolves have dealt with lingering rumblings concerning Karl-Anthony Towns’ unhappiness.

Since reaching the playoffs in 2018, Minnesota has fallen well short of earning another postseason berth in the last three straight campaigns. The Timberwolves appear primed to end that drought, currently sitting in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings with a 28-25 record.

The franchise possesses a promising young core group with Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell but remains far from being an NBA title contender. The three-time All-Star center is in the third year of his five-year, $158.2 million deal that runs through the 2023-24 campaign without a player or team option.

Towns would provide the Blazers with a strong 1-2 punch with him and Lillard as the franchise centerpieces. Lillard can lean on his previous experience playing alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, a star big man who can stretch the floor.

If Towns becomes set on wanting out, the Blazers have more than enough to offer in draft picks and young talent to intrigue the Timberwolves.

James Harden

Harden certainly sounds like a long-shot option for Portland, but the franchise may fit the criteria that the 10-time All-star wants.

The 32-year-old has repeatedly hinted at his desire to test free agency for the first time in his career. The Blazers will likely have $60 million in salary-cap space to offer him the monstrous contract he desires.

Meanwhile, he will have an increased offensive role while playing alongside another elite talent in Damian Lillard. The Philadelphia 76ers are viewed as the early frontrunners to land Harden, but the Blazers hold the appeal of tremendous roster flexibility.

Long shot or not, the Blazers would be foolish not to at least make a run at Harden if he enters free agency in the coming months.

Deandre Ayton

Ayton isn’t a flashy name by any means, but he could soon become an available asset.

The Suns have yet to sign him to the lucrative multi-year extension he desires. The 23-year-old is in the final year of his four-year, $40 million deal. Ayton hasn’t met the lofty expectations for a No.1 overall draft pick, but he’s become a highly productive player.

However, the possibility of this scenario depends on the Suns’ handling of Ayton’s contract situation. The front office took the risk of a wait-and-see approach that could see both sides work out a lucrative deal this upcoming summer. If not, the Blazers could easily swoop into the picture.

Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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