Is a Damian Lillard trade worth Celtics' consideration? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It sounds like there's a real chance Damian Lillard leaves the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason.
The six-time All-Star has been loyal to Portland throughout his nine-year NBA career, but in the wake of another early playoff exit and the Blazers hiring Chauncey Billups as their new head coach, Lillard may ponder a trade request, Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes reported Sunday.
"The enormous backlash from the Portland Trail Blazers' process to hire a new coach and his concerns on whether a championship contender can be built have become factors that may push the franchise player ... out the door," Haynes wrote of Lillard.
There's a good chance you'll hear the Celtics come up as a potential trade destination for Lillard. Kendrick Perkins tabbed Boston as a "great fit" for Lillard earlier this month, while Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix noted on WEEI's "Tanguay and Hart" radio show that the C's are in "good position" to trade for the star point guard.
But here's the catch: Acquiring Lillard almost certainly would mean trading Jaylen Brown.
Lillard is set to make $39.3 million next season on the first year of a four-year, $176 million supermax extension. The Blazers wouldn't deal Lillard without landing an All-Star talent like Brown, who will make about $23 million in 2021-22 and would need to be the centerpiece of a multi-player deal.
Brown is a 24-year-old budding superstar on a favorable contract, so Portland might consider trading Lillard to rebuild around the two-time All-Star. That deal could make sense for the Blazers, but the Celtics should give it a hard pass.
While Lillard is a transcendent talent who would form a lethal duo with Jayson Tatum, he turns 31 in July and is making nearly double Brown's annual salary. Brown is a better defender and arguably has a higher ceiling after finishing his fifth NBA season.
If the Celtics can't get out of the Eastern Conference with Brown, Tatum, new head coach Ime Udoka and a potential third star in the next two or three seasons, then perhaps they should consider moving one of their two young stars. But it's still too early to pull the plug on Tatum and Brown, especially in the first year of a new head coach.
If new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens feels the same way, then you can forget about Lillard donning a Celtics uniform.