NBA Trades: 10 win-now deals Portland can make to give Dame a co-star

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers(Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers(Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images) /
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Co-star #7: Kawhi Leonard

It wasn’t that long ago that the Los Angeles Clippers were title contenders. Unfortunately for them, in the four years of the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George era, they have only made it as far as the West semifinals. Most of their failures are injury-related, particularly Leonard’s. This was supposed to be Leonard’s comeback season after missing last season with an ACL tear. He ended up missing 30 games this season, including the Clippers’ final two playoff games.

The Clippers could run it back next season and hope for the best, or they could cut their losses with Leonard and shop him. When healthy, he is a top-10 player, but teams likely won’t break the bank to try and land him. In that case, Portland could offer Simons and three first-rounders, including their top-six pick, to the Clippers. They would also trade a future first-round pick and Nurkic to the Spurs for Zach Collins, who had a terrific year and may be an upgrade over Nurkic while being on a cheap contract.

Portland’s offer might seem light on assets for Los Angeles, but it would also save them $21 million in salary cap and probably at least double in luxury tax payments. Receiving a good starting guard, the third overall pick, two additional firsts, as well as $60 million in savings, could be a competitive offer for a superstar in his 30s who can’t seem to stay healthy.

For the Blazers, gambling on Leonard being healthy is a risky proposition at best. But it is one that a small-market team such as Portland might have to make to give themselves a chance at contending for a title. Leonard would give the Blazers a dominant wing who can both score, create, and defend.

That is something Portland hasn’t had in the Lillard era. While he may only top out at around 60 regular-season games, aside from this year, he has mostly been healthy during the playoffs over his career. A healthy Leonard and Lillard could be a real problem in the playoffs, and that could be what the Blazers need to get back to the Western Conference Finals.