Damian Lillard can be the Suns’ big offseason acquisition

Damian Lillard Devin Booker Phoenix Suns (Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Damian Lillard Devin Booker Phoenix Suns (Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Seriously, what are the Portland Trailblazers going to do this offseason? Is it time to accept that they are lost in mediocrity and try to dig their way out, and can the Phoenix Suns take advantage?

Although 49 games isn’t the number of wins that you might normally expect for a team who ran a 13-game win streak down the stretch and finished third in an excruciatingly difficult Western Conference, the Portland Trailblazers made it into the playoffs, had high hopes, only to have everything dashed in four games, becoming the first ever three-seed to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs.

The Portland Trailblazers are who we knew they have been all along: good, but not great; a team simply not good enough to make it out of the semi-finals, the farthest they’ve been in their last five playoff runs with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

Being knocked out in such a deciding manner for the second season in a row (the Blazers having been swept in the first round in back-to-back seasons), there is talk about whether or not the backcourt duo of Lillard and McCollum is actually one of long-term playoff viability, or if it is time to split the two off.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

McCollum, being Robin to Lillard’s Batman, is instinctively the first player to be discussed in trade rumors as teams generally build around the best player and move the side-kick, and not the other way around.

The problem in Portland is that the Blazers do not have that much with which to build around. They are a good team  admittedly, but they need far more than just a piece or two to make the team into something outstanding.

This is where the Phoenix Suns can step in. If Portland is even remotely  open to the idea of trading Damian Lillard, Ryan McDonough needs to make a call.

The thing about the Blazers is that they love Damian Lillard, and he loves them. He stated last season that he didn’t want to be traded, a statement that would absolutely drop his price making the ability to afford him in trade that much more palatable, meaning that his loyalty is sound. Any franchise loves that from their star players, further strengthening the bond, and making the player that much harder to trade away – and obtain.

But the Blazers just aren’t winning enough. They might think that they are on the verge of being the Golden State Warriors, one transformative point-four away from becoming a league dynasty, but they need to face the music: nobody is going to be the Golden State Warriors, and nobody is going to beat  the Golden State Warriors anytime soon. Therefore, if a trade offer arises, they will listen.

The thing about the Suns acquiring Damian Lillard is that if they are able to pair him next to Devin Booker (who undoubtedly would be the first player that the Blazers would ask for in a trade for Lillard, and the first rejection that McDonough would make), they would be, in a very real sense, the current Portland Trail Blazers. A good  team, but not a great one. The Suns would be missing out on the generational big to help spread out the offense and pound in the post the same as the Blazers.

So Phoenix would be hard-pressed to give up what could be the best piece they have to acquire such a generational big, in their own first round pick that could end up being number one and DeAndre Ayton.

But, let’s say that Phoenix is willing to move that pick for Lillard, wherever it lies in the top-four, acquire Portland’s late first (24th overall), and hold the Miami Heat’s first round pick, which is at 16.

As simple and clean cut as trading the Suns’ own first round pick to the Blazers in basically what amounts to a one-for-one swap, the odds of that seem low and thus additional pieces must be added to sweeten the pot.

Certainly Portland could demand Josh Jackson, a trade demand that seems almost entirely likely. However, could Phoenix hold Portland back? Would Portland accept T.J. Warren?

If Portland is making the initial call (which in this scenario they are), then Phoenix would hold a little  leverage to with hold Jackson and push for Warren instead. But then McDonough could further sweeten the pot (or maybe not, depending on your point of view) and offer Dragan Bender as well.

I say Bender because the Suns won’t be selecting their center of the future at the top of the draft as that pick would be dealt in this trade, and would need a center to man the fort until they can find a suitable replacement. That player for now could be Marquese Chriss (who did seem to excel at that position a little near the end of the season) who thus would be a viable fit for the subsequent year or two while McDonough seeks out a different solution.

Portland could very certainly ask for an exorbitant amount, seeking Devin Booker, multiple first round picks (although I wouldn’t be entirely against moving multiple picks, certainly if it guarantees that Josh Jackson remains on the roster), and any number of variables that I haven’t authored in this post.

But if Ryan McDonough is truly hell-bent on improving the Suns’ roster this offseason, and adding not only a superstar, but a top-flight player at point guard improving the team’s weakest position, then playing off of the Blazers’ recent lack of success and attempting to pry away someone who up until now seemed entirely un-priable, should be a priority.

Next: Phoenix Suns 2018 offseason plans Part 2: Trades

I should note that in my opinion the Suns’ roster after this trade would look an awful lot like how the Blazers’ roster looks right now: good, but not great – although still likely a playoff team – very guard heavy with not enough bigs to balance out the roster. Ryan McDonough would have a lot of work to do and not quite as many resources to do it with. However, adding Damian Lillard to the mix, especially from the perspective that Devin Booker is better than C.J. McCollum and Josh Jackson is better than either Evan Turner or Al-Farouq Aminu, then building up from there will not be quite as difficult.