NBA Trades: This proposed Nets-Blazers deal is too good to ignore

Brooklyn Nets point guard Ben Simmons (10, left) talks with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Brooklyn Nets point guard Ben Simmons (10, left) talks with Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves in a difficult spot after their superstar, Damian Lillard, asked to be traded. For years, they tried to build around their best player but were unsuccessful in building a championship contender. Now they are forced to field trade offers for the best player in their franchise’s history. While Lillard clearly seems to favor joining the Miami Heat, they have fewer trade assets than several other interested teams, which complicates things.

After all, the Blazers don’t appear interested in taking less just to appease Lillard. Additionally, with at least three years left on his contract, he could be relatively powerless to prevent a trade to another team. That would open up opportunities for teams such as San Antonio, Toronto, and Brooklyn to try and acquire Lillard. In fact, both San Antonio and Brooklyn have been linked to Lillard, but a proposed deal would send Lillard to the Nets.

What would a Nets-Blazers deal look like?

After selecting Scoot Henderson third overall in this year’s draft, and Shaedon Sharpe seventh overall in 2022, the Blazers are already in a surprisingly good position to rebuild. That makes the aforementioned proposed deal with the Nets even better for the Blazers.

After all, in addition to moving on from Lillard, they would also be getting off of starting center Jusuf Nurkic’s contract. That would allow them to clear their books, aside from Anfernee Simons and his cheap contract and having just re-signed Jeremi Grant to a 5-year, $160 million deal.

Ridding themselves of bad contracts, including Lillard and Nurkic’s, would be a big first step for the Blazers, though they would be taking on Simmons’ deal. That would be a small price to pay for acquiring three first-round picks and Claxton, who was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate last season and is just 24 years old.

There is also the possibility that Simmons thrives in a smaller market, though that might not be all that realistic at this point. Fortunately, he only has two seasons left and would have a big expiring contract after next year. Additionally, O’Neale could also be a trade asset for the Blazers, potentially allowing them to further add to their pick haul.

A hypothetical starting lineup of Henderson, Simons, Grant, Simmons, and Claxton would be an entertaining, albeit flawed, lineup. That would be important because, while it could make them competitive, not so much so that it would result in them missing out on another high pick in the 2024 NBA Draft.

For the Nets, they would be turning some of the assets received in the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades into Lillard. Getting back into the superstar business so soon after failing with Durant, Irving, Harden, and later Simmons might seem risky for the Nets, but they already have Mikal Bridges.

He took a big step forward after being traded from Phoenix to Brooklyn and could be an ideal co-star for Lillard given his two-way ability. Additionally, they would still have several assets left over from the Durant and Irving deals, allowing them to further build around Lillard and Bridges post-trade.

Next. NBA Trades: 6 Deals Portland must consider for Damian Lillard. dark

Ultimately, the Blazers could be posturing to try and get more out of Miami, but aside from moving Tyler Herro to another team for more assets, they can only offer so much. That means that another team could swoop in and acquire him at the last minute, including the Nets.