The NBA world was turned on its head with the news that Damian Lillard had finally, after 11 seasons, asked to be traded from the Portland Trail Blazers. While the Miami Heat are the clear frontrunners to land Lillard, the San Antonio Spurs reportedly have an outside chance of acquiring him.
Although the Spurs are coming off their worst season in franchise history, they just drafted Victor Wembanyama first overall and figure to have a big turnaround next season. That alone probably wouldn’t be enough to draw Lillard to San Antonio, but his relationship with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich might be after he coaches him in the 2020 Olympics. Convincing Lillard to come to San Antonio is one thing, but the Blazers are another. Let’s take a look at a potential Spurs-Blazers trade.
What could the Spurs offer the Blazers for Lillard?
Unlike Miami, the Spurs have plenty of draft assets that could interest the Blazers, including Keldon Johnson. Johnson is a rising star who is coming off a career season in which he averaged a terrific 22 points and 5 rebounds per game. He will also soon start a cheap four-year extension, an added bonus. The 23-year-old is arguably a better trade asset than anything the Heat has to offer, outside of Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo, both of whom aren’t on the trade block.
Add in three future firsts: a top-six protected first from Toronto in 2024, Charlotte’s top-14 protected first in 2024, and a top-10 protected first from Chicago in 2025, and the Spurs might have the best possible offer for Lillard. While Portland might want to do right by the best player in franchise history, turning down an offer that features a talented young player in Johnson, two likely lottery picks, and another first from Charlotte might make them think twice. Especially if the best the Heat can offer is Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson, and two firsts.
Even with a third team involved, the return from a Lillard trade might not eclipse what San Antonio can offer. If Lillard is really open to playing in San Antonio, the aforementioned offer wouldn’t gut the Spurs, and they could trot out a talented starting lineup of Lillard, Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan, Victor Wembanyama, and Zach Collins next season.
That unorthodox lineup would feature three players 6’9 or taller, including a 7’4 giant in Wembanyama, possibly allowing them to build a top-10 defense, even with Lillard. On the other side of the ball, the Spurs would have enough shooting around Lillard and Wembanyama to craft a top-tier offense, depending on how good Wemby is out of the gate.
Whether the Spurs have a chance in the Lillard sweepstakes ultimately comes down to Portland. He is under contract for at least the next three seasons, and while he has some say in where he plays next, Portland could play hardball, forcing Miami to either up their offer or Lillard to expand his list of teams. If the latter happens, then San Antonio might just have a chance.