Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard

Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers.

Damian Lillard finally asked for the trade Portland Trail Blazers fans knew was coming. It’s a lose/lose proposition for the team and Dame’s legacy in Portland.

My editor suggested I take a breath and think before starting this article. Thanks to that advice, the title doesn’t include any expletives. Other than that, though, strap in because it’s about to get rough.

The Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard saga has reached its obvious and predetermined conclusion and makes all parties involved look bad. It’s not often both the franchise and the player make things worse, but Portland GM Joe Cronin and Dame pulled it off. Kudos guys!

Timing is Everything

So who comes out looking worse? Well, Lillard could have acknowledged the reality of his situation last year. The Portland Trail Blazers weren’t a contender then and wouldn’t be this year, either.

He could have privately requested a trade, and the franchise would have worked with him. Instead, he waited until after the season, the draft, and the first day of free agency to go public with a trade demand.

Why is that timing such a problem? Portland could have moved him for picks in this year’s draft (where they already had a pair of first rounders) and used those assets to either draft or trade for quality players.

They also could have dealt him with Jerami Grant or Anfernee Simons in a sign-and-trade scenario with interested teams. This could have helped the Portland Trail Blazers get back quality players and given the team more options for deals.

Instead, Lillard claimed he was on board with the team’s offseason plans. After one day of free agency, in which almost no impact players changed teams, Lillard was suddenly no longer happy with Portland’s direction.

Was it because he was disappointed the Blazers didn’t acquire some “C” level free agent? Doubtful. Was it to ensure Jerami Grant got his max deal with a fifth year? Hmmmm. 

Handcuffed to a Bad Deal

To add insult to injury, Lillard leaked the demand and that he wanted to go to Miami. With that, any possible leverage the Portland Trail Blazers had to make a deal went out the window. They can’t even pretend to have better offers to try and get more from the Heat if Lillard refuses to go anywhere else.

The Blazers are basically going to have to take what they’re offered and like it. Thanks, Dame … thanks a lot. 

Plenty of Stink to go Around

So is Lillard the bad guy? Yeah, but he needed help from Joe Cronin.

Cronin has the team firmly racing toward irrelevance since taking the GM reins. Every move he’s made has kept Portland in neutral.

The Portland Trail Blazers haven’t been good enough to go all in and move future assets to win now, and Cronin steadfastly refused to move veterans to start a rebuild.

Oh, they’ve plateaued with two small guards and need to make a move? Well, goodbye, C.J. McCollum, and hello, Anfernee Simons. Same as it ever was.

What would a real GM have done rather than keep shuffling deck chairs on a sinking ship? 

He would have recognized where the franchise was and acted accordingly. Then told Lillard, “We have Shaedon Sharpe, the 3rd and 23rd picks in the draft, Simons, and some other young players. We aren’t contending this year and want to build around the kids. We want you to have a shot at a ring for the next few years, so give us three teams you’d like to go to, and we’ll try to make it work.”

Then Cronin could have had teams bid against each other and taken the best offer. Instead, he tried to placate his superstar and lost all leverage. Successful execs like Danny Ainge or Pat Riley would never have played it that way.

Future in Flux

So where does this situation leave the Portland Trail Blazers? Lost again.

If Dame wants to force his way to Miami, it doesn’t bode well for Rip City. Portland will get at a combination of bad contracts and mediocre future firsts as the return on arguably the best player in franchise history.

While theoretically under contract and having no say in where he goes, Lillard can voice that he doesn’t want to go somewhere and sink the deal. No team is giving up a bunch of assets to acquire a star who doesn’t want to be there. It’s not a one-season rental like Kawhi Leonard‘s Toronto run.

Fans should prepare themselves for an underwhelming return on an unsatisfying trade. Cronin and Dame are both to blame for how this entire debacle transpired and should share the ire of Blazers fans equally. There should be more than enough of it to go around for everyone this year.

Hopefully, Scoot Henderson is a superstar in the making. Shaedon Sharpe continues to make leaps in his development, and the pieces of the Portland Trail Blazers next contender are in place.

After Lillard, Cronin needs to decide if Anfernee Simons fits, what to do with Jusuf Nurkic and Jerami Grant if the team is bottoming out, and what the Portland Trail Blazers will be in the next few years. The lesson? By trying to make everyone happy, Cronin and Lillard made sure nobody would be.

What do you make of Damian Lillard’s demands for the Portland Trail Blazers to trade him to Miami?

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