Portland Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard is one of the best players in the NBA and will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer one day. However, if he wants to avoid becoming the next Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, or Allen Iverson, he has to make a big change this offseason.
Lillard just finished his ninth season with the Blazers. He averaged 28.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 7.5 assists in the regular season and guided Portland to the playoffs for the eighth consecutive year. Despite putting up 34.3 points per game against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2021 postseason, though, Lillard was eliminated in six games, marking the fifth time he’s been bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
The Blazers and head coach Terry Stotts mutually agreed to part ways after the Nuggets series. While Lillard will have a strong say in who the next coach will be, he has to realize that he won’t win a championship in Portland and must request a trade.
Damian Lillard wants Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups as his next coach
Lillard wants the Blazers to hire Jason Kidd or Chauncey Billups as the next head coach. The All-Star prefers Kidd because of his previous head coaching experience and his background as an Oakland point guard. However, Lillard wouldn’t have a problem with Billups either.
Kidd is one of the greatest point guards in NBA history and a Hall of Famer. He is currently an assistant coach on the Los Angeles Lakers. Meanwhile, Billups is an assistant on the Los Angeles Clippers. Lillard has a good relationship with the Detroit Pistons legend, but he prefers the Blazers hire Kidd.
Even though Kidd and Billups are bright basketball minds, Lillard has to understand that his time in Portland must come to an end despite being very open about how he wants to spend his entire career with the Blazers. If he wants to avoid being the next Iverson, Barkley, or Malone, he must request a trade this offseason.
Rival teams monitoring potential availability of Damian Lillard
According to the Athletic, several NBA teams are “intensely monitoring this situation in Portland and how it develops to look for an opening to make trade offers” for Lillard. To make things easier on the Blazers, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year should request a trade this offseason so he can compete for a championship.
The last All-Star Lillard played with was LaMarcus Aldridge. C.J. McCollum, while he’s a gifted scorer, has never been selected as an All-Star and his defense is pretty subpar. His loyalty should be praised, but it’s time for Lillard to move on from the Blazers by requesting a trade. He can’t keep wasting his prime years playing for a franchise that has zero chances of competing for a title.
Barkley, Malone, and Iverson are all in the Hall of Fame despite never winning a ring. Does Lillard want to be remembered as a terrific scorer and player who never won anything or as a champion? This is the perfect offseason for him to request a trade, help the Blazers start their rebuild, and join a contender.
Barkley and Malone didn’t win a title because of Michael Jordan. Iverson came up short because of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Lillard hasn’t been able to get past Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference playoffs. Now, he has to deal with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Devin Booker, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, and Donovan Mitchell in the West. His path to an NBA title will only get harder, especially if he stays on the Blazers.
With that said, Lillard has to go back on his word and ask out of Portland. No superstar will sign with the Blazers since it’s not a big market. If Lillard wants to remain on a mediocre team, that’s his choice, but the wise move would be to request a trade and ask the Blazers to send him to a contender so he can finally play on the NBA’s biggest stage.
It would take a lot to acquire Dame
Let’s say Lillard does request a trade this offseason. Teams interested in him will have to give up a lot to acquire him since he’s one of the top players in the NBA.
The Blazers would probably ask for multiple first-round picks, multiple second-round picks, and at least three rotational players in exchange for Lillard. Some pick swaps could also be on the table. After all, if the Oklahoma City Thunder can get seven first-round picks for Paul George, Portland should be able to get something similar since Lillard is better than George.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Lillard and the Blazers this offseason. Odds are the 30-year-old won’t request a trade, but he should so he doesn’t end up as the next Hall of Famer to not win a title.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.