As the Portland Trail Blazers search for other teams to jump into the Damian Lillard sweepstakes — teams that could, at the least, put pressure on Lillard’s preferred Miami Heat to up their offer — all sorts of rumors have been flying around the league about what other teams could be involved, from Toronto kicking the tires to Charlotte as a third team. None of them seem to have real traction.
Add the Chicago Bulls to that list.
Chicago is rumored to be exploring sending out Zach Lavine in a multi-team trade that would bring Lillard to the Bulls, reports Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports on a podcast Wednesday. Long-time 76ers reporter Derek Bodner echoed the idea, saying he had heard the same thing during the podcast.
To better organize my thoughts on this, let’s turn to our old, reliable friend bullet points.
• I have no doubt Neubeck and Bodner heard this from sources around the league. I also know the odds of pulling off a three-team trade that sends LaVine anywhere is a long shot.
• The problem with any non-Miami team trading for Lillard is that his trade demand would stand. Lillard would show up where traded and perform, but the management of his new team would find themselves in the same position Portland does now, negotiating with the Heat and dealing with media asking every day about a Lillard trade and his happiness.
• If you were a GM, who would you rather have, Lillard or LaVine?
• The Bulls have been testing the trade market for LaVine since well before this offseason but found limited interest. Part of the issue is he still has four years, $178.1 million left on his contract, with the final year being a player option.
• It’s no secret the Bulls have been looking at making a big swing, realizing the roster (as assembled) has a ceiling. Lillard would be a big swing, but how much better would this really make the Bulls? Pairing Lillard with DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic does not make a title contender.
• As Neubeck and Bodner note, Philly is one team that could try to trade for Lillard and call his bluff — Lillard paired with Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey and the 76ers role players would contend for a ring. However, Portland is not about to take James Harden back in a trade, so again this would be a multi-team trade trying to find a home for Harden — which would be more difficult than finding a third team to take on LaVine or Tyler Herro in a deal.
• No doubt a number of teams are taking calls from the Trail Blazers, but reports say Portland isn’t finding traction anywhere. So far, those other teams are throwing out lowball offers, trying to poach Lillard on the cheap (the opposite of Portland’s goal). The rumors will fly, but traction toward an actual deal remains elusive.
• The question remains: will this trade get done in a couple of weeks before training camps open
(most open Oct. 3), or will Portland bring Lillard to camp and deal with that media circus as they try to transition to the Scoot Henderson era.