Damian Lillard to the Lakers? Discussing the possibilities

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Lakers guard Dennis Schroder fouls Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard as he drives during a game at Staples Center.
Lakers guard Dennis Schroder fouls Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard as he drives during a game at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

A report Friday morning that Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, who is with Team USA preparing for the Olympics, will ask for a trade in the coming days started a new round of speculation on where he might land.

The New York Knicks? His former hometown Golden State Warriors? How about the Los Angeles Lakers?

Portland has all the leverage in the scenario since Lillard is owed approximately $44 million a year for four more seasons. Keep in mind, the Trail Blazers would need at least $40 million in player salaries joining their roster to swing the deal.

The Times' NBA reporters — Dan Woike, Broderick Turner and Andrew Greif — discuss the possibilities of a Lillard trade, particularly to the Lakers.

BT: Let me start with this — just was told by a source that Lillard is not going to request a trade in the next day or two, it might not even be imminent. So there's that. Now the source also said he's not sure what Lillard will do in the future regarding a trade.

AG: You can see why there's so much Dame-to-L.A. talk, though: I mean, did you see the "Space Jam: A New Legacy" trailer where he's teaming up with Anthony Davis? No laughs? OK, but seriously, as the term "disgruntled superstar" has taken hold more and more in recent seasons, in the context of a player forcing his way out to a new destination, there is often a caveat with said player. Whatever the specifics — will his style of play mesh, and can he be a leader? — it boils down to the question of whether the player is truly worth it to chase after. And again, you can see why there is so much talk about Lillard. He has proven exceptionally durable, loyal and outrageously productive during his career in Portland. Everyone speaks highly of him.

DW: Does Damian Lillard want to be a Laker? Maybe. Does that matter? Not even a little. He has no leverage because of the length of his contract. It makes little to zero sense that Portland would want to do Dame a solid as a thank you for his loyalty by flipping him to a Western Conference rival for a 10-cents-on-the-dollar trade package the Lakers can offer. What good does a 2028 first-round pick do for Portland GM Neil Olshey as he tries to keep his job now?

BT: That's right, Dan. Dame is due to start his super-max contract with Portland for 4 years and more than $176 million, meaning it would take the Lakers having to put together a lot of salaries to get up to Lillard's $43.75 million that he will earn next season. It just sounds like it would be impossible for the Lakers to do a deal even if they wanted to.

DW: Exactly. The Lakers don't have great assets — you're not getting an All-NBA player for Talen Horton-Tucker, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma along with some draft picks halfway through the Rock's first term as president in 2027. Is it impossible? No. But I'd like their odds better if they decide to invest in $500 worth of scratchers at an AM/PM.

BT: Well, Damian is scheduled to talk today after Team USA's practice in Las Vegas. First, let's see if he actually talks with all the rumors going around regarding his future. And if he does, let's see what he has to say about potential trade destinations, including the Lakers.

DW: The best pathways for the Lakers this offseason involve smaller deals centered around THT, KCP and Kuzma, maybe a sign-and-trade with Dennis Schroder, maybe signing a veteran here or there willing to take a pay cut to chase a ring. But a prime All-NBA guard? That's strictly Photoshop material.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.