There are other teams, too, who would love to get in on the Damian Lillard trade talk… except there is none. The Trail Blazers have no intention of trading the core of their franchise, as Jabari Young notes at CNBC.
[Trail Blazers GM Neil] Olshey has given rival teams no indication that he’s willing to trade Lillard. Lillard and his agent, Aaron Goodwin, could easily change that tone, though. A person close to Lillard told CNBC that he’s expected to wait to see what the Blazers do this off-season before deciding his future.
Olshey and the Trail Blazers plan to be aggressive in retooling the team around Lillard to create a winner. The fact that Lillard made it clear who he wants to be the next coach in Portland — Jason Kidd — suggests a guy who wants to stay and make it work, not bolt for greener pastures.
Expect CJ McCollum trade rumors to fly as he is the player the Blazers could trade who would bring back other star talent and keep the roster very competitive. At CNBC, Young mentions the Cavaliers and Spurs as potential destinations, but there could be other landing spots from Miami to New York to the Clippers, depending upon how aggressive those teams want to be.
It’s in the interest of ownership to be aggressive and keep Lillard happy, Young notes.
When a rebuild occurs, a team loses leverage in negotiating corporate partnerships. The Blazers will be navigating a new regional sports network partner, moving from NBC Sports Northwest to AT&T’s Root Sports. Distribution issues have been a concern for the team for years and has cost it audience reach. But entering a new local TV deal with no superstar isn’t ideal.
Lillard is a huge financial draw, and losing him could be devastating. There would likely be fewer nationally televised games. It’s here the team’s jersey patch asset could take a hit because less exposure makes that advertising real estate less attractive.
Ownership — the estate of the late Paul Allen — has reason to make Lillard happy, and that gives Lillard leverage to force changes to a roster that has exited the playoffs in the first round four of the past five years.
It’s a good bet major changes are coming to Portland. Whether that will be enough in a stacked Western Conference remains to be seen.