After a legendary 11-year career with the Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard has officially requested a trade.
Utah Jazz fans have been waiting for that news for a long time.
Lillard is everything Jazz fans have ever wanted. He is a superstar with ties to the state of Utah, legendary loyalty to his team, and a track record of being universally beloved everywhere he goes. Dame wears the number zero in honor of three places important to him; Oregon, his hometown of Oakland, and Ogden, Utah.
Lillard’s time at Weber State was essential to his journey and development. He has talked about it often his connection to Utah and what it means to him. He often visits in the offseason for Weber State events, always having time for fans and those who supported him in college.
Utah loves Damian Lillard, and Damian Lillard loves Utah.
As important as all of that is, that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is that the Utah Jazz are a perfect fit for Damian Lillard on the basketball court. The Athletic’s Sam Amick has reported that the Jazz have an interest in Lillard, and it just makes too much sense.
The Jazz fit for Lillard
Damian Lillard is an All-NBA scorer and creator at the top of his game. He runs the pick and roll. He scores from outside better than anybody in NBA history not named Steph Curry. He can make plays for teammates. He’s a go-to scorer in the clutch.
Guess what the Utah Jazz roster is built for? Exactly that type of player.
Utah’s lone All-Star last season was Lauri Markkanen. Lauri Markkanen is unique in the league as one of only two players since the ‘90s to score 25+ points per game on lower than 27% usage. In other words, he puts up star production on role-player usage. Markkanen is a legitimate stretch big. He scores from three and at the rim. He’d provide scoring and spacing for Dame without taking touches from him. He’s the perfect ‘number two’.
One of the main issues that Portland ran into with building around Lillard was that their defense was often poor. Lillard himself is not a strong defender, although he’s probably a bit better on that end than he gets credit for. Portland never managed to surround Lillard with two-way players, thus making his deficiencies on defense more pronounced. The Utah Jazz just so happen to have the best young rim protector in the league, and a who slew of long, athletic, switchable defenders across the roster.
Walker Kessler is a defensive monster. This type of impact for a rookie is almost unheard of pic.twitter.com/RZi7RrK97I— Shane Young (@YoungNBA) March 21, 2023
Lillard’s fit for the Jazz
The fit goes both ways. The Utah Jazz are young, athletic, and talented, but they are missing a couple of key things. There’s a lot of scoring, but not a lot of self-creation or playmaking. There’s really not a true distributor or floor general on the team. There’s also a lack of high-level shooting in the backcourt. Damian Lillard is the exact piece this puzzle is missing. He excels at everything the Jazz need.
In case you forgot, Damian Lillard is an all-time great scorer. He has not slowed down or seemingly aged at all. In fact, last season may have been his best ever. Lillard put up 32.2 points per game with ridiculous efficiency. Only five times in NBA history has a player scored over 30 points per game with over 64% true shooting. Stephen Curry did it twice, Adrian Dantley and Joel Embiid once each, and 2022-23 Damian Lillard. There’s no reason to think he’s slowing down right now. If anything, he’s getting better.
Could the Jazz actually get him?
The short answer is yes. The Jazz have nine tradable first-round draft picks at their disposal, plus three rookies they just drafted in the first round. Portland is looking to build for the future around Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe. Utah and Brooklyn may make the most sense as trade partners.
The Trail Blazers do not plan to cooperate with Damian Lillard on his trade request to the Heat, per @wojespn:— Evan Sidery (@esidery) July 2, 2023
- Portland “open for business everywhere in the league” on trading Lillard.
- Blazers seeking a combination of young players, draft picks and cap relief.
- Miami has… pic.twitter.com/n7y8PtaCgo
The Jazz also have many expiring contracts. They can easily put together a package that give Portland young talent, cap relief, and draft assets. Danny Ainge built the roster for exactly this reason. To be able to trade for a star.
The Jazz will certainly not want to include Markkanen or Kessler in the trade, while the Blazers will definitely want them included. So Utah would need to add enough draft capital to make it worthwhile for Portland. With nine picks available to trade, Utah could make a rich offer and still have plenty of picks leftover to build the future with, or to trade for more win-now players.