Daydream all you want about Damian Lillard in green but here’s the reality: Unless you’re willing to give up Jaylen Brown as the centerpiece of a trade package, there’s virtually no chance it happens, and that should be a nonstarter for the Boston Celtics.
Lillard is undeniably talented and a joy to watch with his limitless range. The Celtics have sorely missed a small, wrist-tapping guard who thrives in the fourth quarter ever since they dealt Isaiah Thomas.
But unlike some situations that offer a path to a three-star pairing in Boston — including multiple avenues with someone like Bradley Beal — Lillard’s contract status makes it likely that Portland digs in for the highest possible return in any trade scenario.
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Lillard’s future has been the center of much offseason speculation. On Friday, True Hoop reported that Lillard will soon request a trade out from the Blazers.
Under contract for $176.2 million over the next four years — the final year is a $48.8 million player option — Lillard doesn’t have much leverage to power play his way to a specific spot. What he can do is dig in and let Portland settle for the best offer.
Philadelphia can dangle packages built around Ben Simmons. Denver has an abundance of young talent that could accelerate a Portland reboot. Whoever ends up with top picks in this year’s draft could make strong cases, too, though salary matching would make a deal cumbersome.
Boston certainly could interject itself into any trade conversation if it made Brown available. We’ll continue to scream it from the mountaintop: There is absolutely no reason to trade a 24-year-old All-Star on a sweetheart of a deal -- particularly not for a north-of-30, defensively-challenged guard who will be earning $40-plus million at a time when smaller guards’ skills tend to start fading.
Yes, it’s tantalizing to think what a Lillard/Tatum core is capable of in the near term. But Boston has avenues to adding another elite-level player without sacrificing the Tatum/Brown core and could have a much longer title window with a bit of patience.
And that ought to be the preferred path forward.