The Portland Trail Blazers were defeated by the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night, ending their season. Following the game, the usual questions that arise when the Blazers lose in the playoffs surfaced, but this time, pointed postgame comments and an Instagram post from Damian Lillard appeared to make it clear that the team requires a broad plan to transition from a consistently good Western Conference team to a legitimate contender.
Because this is such a hot topic as the Blazers approach the end of the season, many people are worrying about Lillard’s future with the team, despite the fact that he has stated that he wants to finish his career in Portland. Of course, things may change, and Stephen A. Smith said on Friday’s edition of First Take that several clubs quickly inquired about Lillard’s availability following the Nuggets’ loss, with “six or seven” believing they had a chance to sign him this offseason.
“Several calls have come their way,” Smith said. “You got a lot of teams, about six or seven different teams, believe they can get their hands on him. They think they’ve got a shot. One of them includes the Knicks, who are scheduled to have about $75 million in cap space along with some picks, but also, the Clippers, the Miami Heat, and who knows what the Lakers may try to do.”
It is important to stress that the gap between “teams think they have a shot” and “Lillard is actually attainable in a trade” is pretty gigantic, because there are 29 teams in the league that would love to trade for Lillard but that doesn’t matter if the one that he currently plays for has no interest in moving him. Still, a fun thing to monitor is going to be whether the teams that have the pieces to intrigue Portland try to make a move because it’s much easier to say a guy is untouchable when there is no formal trade offer on your desk.