After another first-round exit, it might be time for the Trail Blazers to blow up their team and start fresh. And according to Stephen A. Smith, there are a lot of teams chomping at the bit to grab the franchise’s centerpiece.
“About 6 or 7 teams believe they can get their hands on [Damian Lillard],” Smith said during Friday’s episode of First Take after claiming to have talked to several sources. “One of them includes the Knicks … But also, the Clippers, the Miami Heat, and who knows what the Lakers might try to do.”
The Nuggets bounced the Blazers from the playoffs on Thursday after winning Game 6. Despite losing the series, Lillard fought hard to the end, averaging over 34 points for the series including an epic 55 point performance in Game 5.
Unfortunately, this year’s playoffs were a mere microcosm of Dame’s career in Portland. Dame built his name on late-game heroics and never shying away from the pressure. Yet, he has never been paired with a consistent star who can shoulder some of the load. As a result, his team has never made it past the Western Conference Finals. Although he’s been faithful to Portland, the disappointing seasons appear to be taking a toll on Lillard who seemingly alluded to the process with lyrics from Nipsey Hussle’s Victory Lap album.
“‘How long should I stay dedicated? How long til opportunity meet preparation,’” Lillard captioned his season-ending Instagram post.
After years of stagnation, the writing might be on the wall for Portland. But, any team looking to acquire Dame would have to do a lot of bookkeeping to make sure his contract fits into a roster with another superstar. In 2019, Dame agreed to a 4-year, $196 million, supermax extension with the Trail Blazers. This keeps him under contract with the team until the 2024-25 season and he’s scheduled to make nearly $40 million going into next year. Yet, this hefty price tag is one any team would be willing to pay for a gem like Lillard.