Hollinger proposed a potential package that would feature C.J. McCollum and Larry Nance Jr. heading back to Portland to make salaries work along with some young players and draft capital.
“It would be ironic to trade McCollum and Nance back to Portland since that’s almost certainly what this would entail to create a salary match,” Hollinger wrote. “There is a case to be made for kicking the tires on this, even though it’s not Lillard’s first choice. He’s signed for four more years, so his leverage is fairly limited. And the Pels can create a winning package with their future picks and young players; there is no question they can outbid the rest of the market.”
Lillard has been rumored to only want to play for the Miami Heat, but the Heat and Trail Blazers have yet to come to terms on a deal. The seven-time All-Star requested a trade from the Blazers this offseason after spending his entire career with the franchise.
The Pelicans certainly have a lot of talent that they could use to entice the Blazers, including their lottery picks from the last two NBA drafts in Dyson Daniels and Jordan Hawkins.
However, it may be harder to complete a deal if Lillard doesn’t want to play for the team – even though he doesn’t have a no-trade clause. A disgruntled star would make for some chemistry issues if a trade were made.
The Pelicans could still look to pursue Lillard, or another star, with the massive amount of assets they have saved up.
New Orleans missed the playoffs in the 2022-23 season, losing in the play-in tournament to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pelicans didn’t have their team at full strength for most of the 2022-23 campaign since Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson both dealt with injuries.
Williamson, a former No. 1 overall pick, has struggled to stay healthy the past few seasons for New Orleans.
Adding a player of Lillard’s caliber could help offset any potential injuries moving forward, and it would give the team a clear win-now direction with Lillard in the prime of his career.
It will be interesting to see if the market for Lillard develops more as the offseason progresses. For now, it seems like Portland is holding out for the best possible deal since its star player is under contract for several more seasons.