In the latest round of NBA rumors, the Oklahoma City Thunder could emerge as betting favorites to trade for Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard. At this juncture, Lillard prefers to play for the Miami Heat. However, OKC is loaded.
“I’mma throw a scenario out there, one that is fictional but could be rooted in reality if we look ahead a few months,” Sports Illustrated’s Chris 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.”
According to a few NBA betting sites, the Oklahoma City Thunder hold 16th-ranked odds to win next season’s championship in 2024. Nevertheless, sportsbooks are showing better odds for the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings.
“Chet Holmgren is gonna be really good. Lot of good players in Oklahoma City,” Mannix added. “Let’s say they’re sitting there, and Oklahoma City knows they can’t pay all these guys on their roster. They’ve got a surplus of young talent. They’ve got a surplus of draft picks.
“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! Let’s put Lillard in a backcourt with Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] and with Lu Dort as the three man, and let’s see how that works.’ … Personally, I think Shai can defend two guards.
“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.’”
In other words, it’s only a matter of time.
NBA Rumors: the Oklahoma City Thunder could become the betting favorites to trade for Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard in the future
Additionally, Mannix said on the podcast that Miami could 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. Plus, Vincent inked a three-year, $33 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason.
Moreover, NBA insider Chris Haynes is in frequent contact with Lillard, and the TNT reporter was asked by Brian Custer in June on Showtime’s “The Last Stand” about whether Portland would consider trading the seven-time All-Star to a Western Conference team.
“I do not envision a possibility that he would be traded to a Western Conference team,” Haynes said. “I think they [the Trail Blazers] respect him enough for what he’s done for the organization. … Nets, Miami, and possibly Philly. But they [the Sixers] don’t have what it takes. I’ll leave it at the Nets and Miami.”
“That is already, overnight, one of the most talented rosters in the league”
— The Volume (@TheVolumeSports) July 12, 2023
Regardless of where Lillard ends up next, he’s owed $216.2 million over the next four seasons. Likewise, the 11-year veteran is slated to earn $45.64 million in 2023-24. Furthermore, his salary will also climb to $63.2 million by 2026-27.
In 58 starts with the Trail Blazers 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. Not to mention, he shot a career-high-tying 46.3% from the floor and 37.1% outside the arc.
Equally important, would Lillard be up to playing in OKC? As a result, would the Thunder have to tear their roster to smithereens? These questions have to be running through the mind of Presti. Above all else, it might not be worth it in the end.
Meanwhile, quite a few Thunder fans would appreciate a trade for Lillard.
More NBA rumors are on the main page.