Grade the Trade: Sixers land Lillard in thrilling three-team proposal

Damian Lillard, Tyrese Maxey - Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Damian Lillard, Tyrese Maxey - Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /
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Philadelphia 76ers, Tobias Harris
Philadelphia 76ers, Tobias Harris. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

Laying out a Damian Lillard trade

The main hurdle for a Damian Lillard trade is that Portland doesn’t simply want to take back everyone’s bad contracts. They are looking for promising young frontcourt players, expiring money, and plenty of draft picks. The 76ers can really only reach one of those thresholds in Tobias Harris’ expiring contract.

The path to a deal, therefore, lies in finding another team to trade for Tyrese Maxey. That list will be much longer, as teams that need a point guard will be lining up for a player like Maxey, who is inexpensive, young, and brimming with potential. It’s possible the 76ers mean it when they say they won’t trade for Maxey for anyone, but that’s likely to be a negotiation tactic.

If so, the Utah Jazz are an obvious choice, a team with a need for a lead guard, the size and defensive versatility to handle a player like Maxey at the point, and the assets to send on to Portland. Such a deal would look something like this:

The Utah Jazz have assembled a dynamic frontcourt, with a star shotmaker, a shot-blocking center, a low-post offensive powerhouse, and a 3-and-D role player — Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, John Collins, and Taylor Hendricks, respectively. Here they add the straw to stir the drink, an on-ball offensive maestro in Maxey to run the show. They send out three first-round picks for Maxey, and with Minnesota and Cleveland mortgaging their entire draft futures to Utah they have some juicy ones to hand out.

For Portland, this deal does two major things. First, they get plenty of draft capital, four first-round picks, and a swap; that’s comparable to what the Cavaliers sent out for Donovan Mitchell, and Lillard is both older and more expensive. The second thing it does is send back only Tobias Harris, which reduces the Blazers’ salary right now (letting them match on a Matisse Thybulle offer sheet, for example) and clears off the books next summer. That’s valuable too, and this deal trumps anything that the Miami Heat could put on the table.

Utah and Portland are in; does Philly say yes?