Damian Lillard reportedly had a one-on-one meeting with Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen to discuss the team. Could the Utah Jazz prying him from PDX be a possibility?
Every now and again, something happens elsewhere in the NBA that grabs the interest of Utah Jazz fans in a major way. Such was the case on Monday when news broke that Damian Lillard met privately with Portland Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen to discuss the franchise’s direction.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes was the first to report on the one-on-one meeting. According to Haynes, there had been fear within the Blazers organization that Lillard would request a trade. It seems as though no such demand was made, but Lillard-to-Utah trade chatter has already begun on social media.
Given some of the elements in play, it’s not hard to see why.
Lillard is undoubtedly one of the league’s best backcourt players. He’s averaged better than 25 points per contest in each of the last three seasons. The 27-year-old has also led his squad to four straight playoff appearances and multiple 50-win campaigns.
Beyond that, though, it’s his Utah connections that get fans hot and bothered. Lillard first made a name for himself at Ogden, Utah’s Weber State University. He’s also rapped about Jerry Sloan and name-checked the Jazz as a team he’d like to play for in the past.
Moreover, he has an existing friendship with Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell. So, naturally, Jazz Nation wants the two to team up and lead them back to the promised land.
Further fueling speculation is the fact that the 19-28 Jazz are in desperate need of a shake-up. In order to get back into the West’s playoff picture (not just this season, but in the years ahead), a major talent upgrade is probably necessary. That being the case, moves are expected ahead of the February 8 trade deadline.
But could Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey really deal for Dame? Probably not.
Lillard’s deal with the Blazers runs through 2021 and, by all accounts, he’s well at home in Portland. If anything, this was likely a “clear the air” kind of meeting and an opportunity for Lillard to take a greater hand in steering the Blazers toward an NBA championship.
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As the team’s star player, he’s well within his right to take stock of its basketball operations.
So while a trade to bring in Lillard would undoubtedly win the press conference (and a lot of games to boot), it’s probably a pipe dream. Really, C.J. McCollum would be the more likely get. The New York Times’ Marc Stein even predicted that McCollum could be dealt this year.
However, I would question Utah’s ability to make the best offer for either player. With Mitchell and Rudy Gobert untouchable, Lindsey’s best trade pieces are Rodney Hood, the team’s upcoming first-round pick and expiring contracts.
He could probably get good value back with some of that, but it’s likely not enough to move the needle here.
Still, anything can happen at the NBA trade deadline.