The seven-time NBA all-star, Damian Lillard, and the 2018 NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), James Harden, have requested a trade from their respective teams, the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers. With the trade season officially underway, this has added buzz to the upcoming season.
After 11 years playing for Portland, Lillard has ‘specifically’ asked to be traded to the Miami Heat, according to NBA insider Shams Charania. However, three other suitors, the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers, have also expressed interest in this NBA superstar, who was also part of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
James Harden has expressed a preference for the Los Angeles Clippers. Harden is keen to be traded, and the Clippers officially re-signing Russel Westbrook has only made Harden more determined. Understanding this dynamic, the Clippers have made no significant move in this deal. This may be because no other team is aggressively pursuing Harden’s situation, and the 76ers star is seemingly unwilling to return to his current team.
Both trades are being held back because the teams want larger returns for their superstars. George Swartz of Bleacher Report has crafted a solution that could benefit all parties involved. According to him, the 76ers, not wanting to deal with an unhappy Harden, could trade him off. The Clippers could get their guy in Harden and create a menacing Big Three with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The 76ers would receive the talented Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, and Robert Covington. Portland could trade off Lillard if the Miami Heat meets their asking price. Miami would receive Lillard and, in return, Portland would get future first-round picks. They would also get the exciting young talent in the form of Nikola Jovic.
Despite both superstars wanting to leave, their respective teams have made no significant progress towards the trade. Lillard still has 4 years and 216 million dollars remaining on his contract. He’s coming off one of the most prolific seasons of his career, averaging 32.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, making him one of the best guards in the league. Harden has also opted into his whopping 35.6-million-dollar contract. With such high numbers at stake, it is no wonder that none of the teams want their superstars to leave without getting high returns for them.
Lillard and Harden are still under contract, with 4 years and 1 year remaining on their contracts, respectively. Even though Lillard and Harden don’t have a no-trade clause in their contracts, neither Lillard nor Harden are expected to be traded anytime soon. Both the Blazers and 76ers want massive hauls for their superstars, and since they are under contract, both would get fined if they don’t show up next season in the event they are not traded.
Both deals hold significant sway in changing the future of their teams and the landscape of the league. The NBA world has a keen eye on the deals. Other exciting deals, like the Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards, are also of keen interest to avid fans.
According to the Miami Heat’s insider, Greg Svylander, the Heat could offer Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and Nikola Jovic, four first-round picks, and three first-round swaps. Tyler Herro, still just 23, has averaged 20.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, shooting 37.8 percent from the last three seasons. Nikola Jovic is yet another menacing young talent. The 6’10” forward is just 20 years old with strong passing skills.
The Blazers General Manager, Joe Cronin, doesn’t seem to be in a rush regarding the whole Lillard saga. “We are going to do what’s best for our team. If it takes months, it takes months,” said Cronin at the Las Vegas Summer League. According to Cronin, he felt a “jolt” when Lillard requested the trade and, when the request specified Miami, it complicated the situation.
Even though it is proving to be difficult to match the Blazers’ requests, Miami’s initial offer centered around Tyler Herro and included Duncan Robinson, Nikola Jovic, Jaime Jaquez Jr., and three first-round picks. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported that Portland has been hesitant to engage with the Heat regarding Lillard’s trade. According to Cronin, in any deal the Trail Blazers look at, the goal is to come out with the best outcome. The general manager wants to maximize the returns of this trade, which he said can be difficult in the current market. Reports suggest that the Miami Heat is ready to sweeten the offer by involving four first-round picks to alter Cronin’s perspective on this trade.
Lillard still has years left on his contract, and Portland has no obligation to trade him to his preferred destination. However, Lillard is the Blazers’ all-time top scorer and has been a loyal servant to the organization for over a decade, so they might want to honor his request and avoid having a disgruntled superstar on their roster.
Damian Lillard’s decision could be influenced by the precedents of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Both of these players were traded off by the Brooklyn Nets last year. Irving was making 38.9 million dollars and seeking a long-term extension with the Nets when the contract talks broke down, and the Nets found a willing trade partner in the Dallas Mavericks. Durant, who was amidst his four-year deal and 198-million-dollar contract, asked to be traded next. The Nets brokered a deal with the Phoenix Suns a night before the trade deadline. Portland could learn a thing or two from the Nets’ handling of Durant and Irving’s situation and play hardball with Lillard in the hopes of extracting the highest possible value.
In an interview in April last year with CNBC’s Jabari Young, Lillard said that he had no plans of leaving the Blazers. Now, after playing the best season of his career, the NBA all-star wants to leave the only team he has ever played for. The biggest question in all this conundrum remains the same: Will Damian Lillard take to the court if he isn’t traded?