After another frustrating season for the Portland Trail Blazers, the future of Damian Lillard has again become a topic of conversation.
However, according to NBA insider Michael Scotto, Portland still plans to build around the 32-year-old.
“Damian Lillard created a little bit of a stir when he showed up to watch the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center during the playoffs and caught his guy Mikal Bridges playing,” Scotto said during a podcast. “With that said, Portland still plans to build around Lillard, I’m told.”
Scotto added some information about Portland’s plans with the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming draft.
“Rival executives have been closely monitoring Portland believing that the third overall pick is potential trade bait if the Blazers try to improve the roster and compete with Lillard,” Scotto said. “Portland has received inquiries from various teams interested in the third pick, I’m told. So far, Portland is listening, but the sense is the Blazers are comfortable taking either Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller if either player falls to them, depending on what Charlotte does at pick two.”
Lillard is under contract through at least the 2025-26 season and has a player option for the 2026-27 campaign. That means his contract guarantees three more seasons of club control.
The seven-time All-Star had one of the best seasons of his career in the 2022-23 campaign. Across 58 games, he averaged 32.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from deep.
Unfortunately, the Blazers weren’t able to put Lillard’s season to good use. They finished with a 33-49 record and missed the postseason.
Lillard is undoubtedly one of the best guards in the NBA, but one has to imagine that his sunset years are in sight. He’s getting older and may have trouble sustaining his current production for many more years.
For that reason, if Portland is hoping to build a contender around Lillard, the time to do so is now. Portland hasn’t reached the playoffs since the 2020-21 season, and the team hasn’t won a playoff series since the 2018-19 season.
The former Rookie of the Year believes there are impact players out there who want to join the Blazers. If that’s the case, the next step for the organization is to be aggressive and add those players to the mix in Portland.
Portland’s approach during the 2023 NBA Draft, which is set for June 22 in New York, could tell fans a lot about the direction the team is going to take this offseason.
Lillard has spent his entire career with the Blazers since being drafted by them with the No. 6 overall pick in 2012.