Are possible Antetokounmpo, Embiid trades next summer hurting Lillard market?

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has fired shots across the bow of the Milwaukee Bucks a couple of times this summer, saying he will leave if there is a better chance to win a ring elsewhere. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid has said, “I just want to win a championship… whether it’s in Philly or anywhere else.”

Nearly every team in the league is monitoring those situations while looking at the players and picks it has to trade to decide whether to jump into an Embiid/Antetokounmpo sweepstakes, if they develop. Is the potential of those younger superstars coming on the market hurting the offers the Portland Trail Blazers can get for Damian Lillard? Here is what ESPN’s
Adrian Wojnarowski said on NBA Today (hat tip Real GM).

“There could be some massive talents available for trades next season. Maybe at the trade deadline. Maybe next year. You have teams weighing the assets they might use to trade for Damian Lillard versus who could be available, that ‘we don’t want to be out of the game for some players younger,’ first-team All-NBA type of players who may be in that marketplace.”

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I think the possibility of Embiid or Antetokounmpo hitting the market is not impacting Lillard much.

The Lillard case is unique because of his age and contract. Lillard is still near the peak of his game, he averaged 30.2 points a game last season and was an All-NBA player — he is still a top 12 player in the league (at least, that is a conservative number). However, he is also 33 years old and is owed a guaranteed $216.7 million over the next four years. He has to go to an absolute win-now team like the Miami Heat. He would fit in Philly, too.

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However, teams monitoring Embiid and Antetokounmpo are not necessarily looking at Lillard. The Knicks would be all in on the other two but have little interest in Lillard (partly because of how well Jalen Brunson has played for New York, it wants to add around him not replace him). Golden State has a known interest in Antetokounmpo but they are kind of set at the point guard spot (and Lillard would not want to go there anyway). Oklahoma City has the trade assets Portland would love in a deal, but they are looking to build organically and slowly, plus they are set at the point as well. The Spurs are the same as OKC, taking it slowly around Victor Wembanyama and wisely not mortgaging the future to try and win now.

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The list goes on and on — it’s not Embiid and Antetokounmpo limiting Lillard’s market, it’s Lillard. As great as the future Hall of Famer is, at this point in his career (and with that contract) he is not plug-and-play just about anywhere like others who might come on the market. Maybe a few teams are more hesitant (the Los Angeles teams?), but they were not all-in for Lillard anyway.

Meanwhile, the Heat and Trail Blazers keep talking and trying to find a third team to jump into the dance (Portland would love more teams to get in on the Lillard sweepstakes). The rest of the league will sit back and wait.

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