Approximately 52% of ESPN voters in the network’s 2023-24 NBA Summer Forecast panel believe Damian Lillard will still be playing for the Portland Trail Blazers when next season begins.
The Trail Blazers received 52% of the votes, followed by the Miami Heat (44%) and Philadelphia 76ers (4%). Maybe 4% of the voters think Portland will trade the seven-time All-Star to Philly for either James Harden or Joel Embiid.
While Embiid has not yet requested a trade, Harden has been vocal about playing for the Los Angeles Clippers. However, the Sixers guard could make an exception and agree to a trade to the Trail Blazers.
According to a few NBA betting sites, the Portland Trail Blazers hold 27th-ranked odds to win next season’s championship in 2024. Sportsbooks are showing better odds for the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.
Damian Lillard started following Miami Heat 👀 pic.twitter.com/bxIfm5sAyM
— Buhownz (@Demar305) August 20, 2023
Last Friday, the Oklahoma City Thunder were rumored to emerge as betting favorites to trade for Lillard. If the price is right, Trail Blazers G.M. Joe Cronin will pull the trigger. Although Lillard prefers to play for the Heat, that may never happen.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix said on The Crossovers podcast that Miami would regret the loss of Max Strus and Gabe Vincent if they are unable to trade for Lillard. Strus, 27, agreed to a four-year, $63 million sign-and-trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Additionally, Vincent inked a three-year, $33 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
About 52% of ESPN voters believe Damian Lillard will still be playing in a Portland Trail Blazers uniform when the 2023-24 season begins
“I’mma throw a scenario out there, one that is fictional but could be rooted in reality if we look ahead a few months,” Mannix said on The Crossovers podcast.
“Let’s say Oklahoma City is gangbusters to start the season. Let’s say they win like 60-something percent of their games through January where they’re sitting in the third or fourth seed in the Western Conference — which is not outrageous because, organically they’re going to grow.
“Chet Holmgren is gonna be really good. Lot of good players in Oklahoma City,” Mannix added. “They’ve got a surplus of young talent. They’ve got a surplus of draft picks.
Marc J. Spears tries to get Damian Lillard to speak on his trade request from the Portland Trailblazers 🤒
— My Mixtapez (@mymixtapez) August 24, 2023
“What’s to stop Sam Presti from saying, ‘You know what? Damian Lillard’s got 3.5 years left on his deal. Let’s go get him! … You know, if you’re Portland, you’ve got to be thinking about that scenario or something like that in the next three or four months. Not like, ‘Let’s get Lillard off the roster and take whatever Miami’s going to give.’”
Furthermore, NBA insider Chris Haynes listed the 76ers and Brooklyn Nets among the teams Lillard would be interested in playing for back in June. Nonetheless, the Trail Blazers star doesn’t seem interested in playing for the Sixers.
More importantly, Lillard is owed $216.2 million over the next four seasons. The 11-year veteran is slated to earn $45.64 million in 2023-24, and his deal carries a $63.2 million player option for 2026-27.
In 58 starts with Portland in the 2022-23 season, Lillard averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game, along with 4.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 36.3 minutes per game. Moreover, he shot a career-high-tying 46.3% from the floor and 37.1% outside the arc.
ESPN voters believe an in-season trade for Lillard is more probable.