The world of NBA team building revolves around the movement of the star player. After the Washington Wizards ignited a rebuild by trading Bradley Beal to Phoenix on Sunday, plenty of rival teams, such as the Miami Heat, have turned their attention to Portland. Those eager front offices are eyeing Blazers All-NBA guard Damian Lillard with the hope that any outcome of Thursday night’s NBA Draft — in which the Blazers own the No. 3 pick — that doesn’t result in a trade of veteran upgrades around Portland’s cornerstone could result in Lillard requesting a trade from the only franchise he’s ever known. They hope that if the Blazers take Scoot Henderson or Brandon Miller, it means as much as waving goodbye to Lillard.
However, the reality does not look so binary. Lillard apparently prefers to stay with Portland, and the Trail Blazers have shown no willingness to discuss the seven-time All-Star with inquiring teams, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The Blazers view this entire offseason as their canvas to bolster a contender around Lillard, not just this week’s NBA draft, and free agency will provide additional opportunity to bolster that roster beyond plans to re-sign Jerami Grant. Portland has explored options for dealing the No. 3 pick, but in a draft that scouts have deemed to feature three top prospects, the Blazers are valuing their picks in negotiations with opposing teams, sources said. Portland is unlikely to part with the No. 3 pick unless the Blazers bring back one of a select number of premium targets to pair with Lillard. Portland is preparing what the team believes is a compelling package for Miami to part with all-defensive center Bam Adebayo, according to a source familiar with the situation.
A shifty backline anchor like Adebayo would bring immediate improvement to a Portland team that ranked 28th in defensive efficiency during the 2022-23 campaign. Adebayo’s presence and versatility have helped Miami to two finals in the past four seasons. He and Lillard played together for Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and have developed a close friendship, but the Heat have primarily sought to complement Adebayo in recent transaction cycles, sources said, and have not considered a future without him starring in the front lane. Miami has targeted additional power forward help ever since the departure of PJ Tucker last summer in free agency. Adebayo is a team favorite and a central focal point of the Heat’s offense. Miami brass seems highly unlikely to consider any Portland overture that doesn’t include rookie standout Shaedon Sharpe in addition to a package of the No. 3 pick and Anfernee Simons, who the Blazers, sources said, have made available in discussions with other teams.
If Adebayo ends up marking someone on the Blazers’ wish list and nothing more, at least Portland’s pursuit of the two-time All-Star reveals the type of talent it will take for this front office to part with the third pick. The Blazers have been linked by league personnel to both Raptors forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, but Portland doesn’t really desire either Toronto player for the No. 3 pick, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Zach LaVine, the Bulls All-Star guard who flirted with Portland when he reached unrestricted freedom last June, also doesn’t appear to be a legitimate target for the Blazers. For all the speculation surrounding Minnesota sharpshooter Karl-Anthony Towns, there has been no apparent interest from either the Wolves or the Blazers, sources say, in terms of terms around Towns for the third pick. Portland, sources said, is targeting forwards with size at the top level of the league’s player hierarchy — someone like Adebayo or Clippers All-Star Paul George.
Could that player end up being Brandon Ingram or Zion Williamson? The Pelicans have yet to make formal offers to the Blazers for the No. 3 pick, sources told Yahoo Sports, despite New Orleans’ known interest in Henderson of the G League Ignite. It remains to be seen whether the Pelicans will actually be open to dealing Williamson, the No. 1 pick in 2019, and we may not learn New Orleans’ appetite for such a blockbuster until Portland is on the clock Thursday night — though all indications are that the Pelicans would require more than the third selection to part with one of New Orleans’ two All-Stars.
That positioning, of course, will be determined by the Hornets’ ultimate outcome at No. 2. Both Henderson and Alabama’s Miller returned to Charlotte on Monday, sources said, working before Hornets management, which included current team owner Michael Jordan, who has agreed to sell the team to minority owner Gabe Plotkin and former Hawks partner Rick Schnall. Rival team personnel have long pegged Miller as the Hornets’ likely selection with the No. 2 pick, to pair the scoring wing next to All-Star point guard LaMelo Ball. While Henderson has impressed Hornets staff with his size and explosiveness, Miller’s perceived optimal fit next to Ball appears to be too big of a factor for Charlotte to pass up. Miller has been considered the favorite by the Hornets’ front office, sources told Yahoo Sports, and Charlotte appears to be moving toward selecting Miller after San Antonio crowned Victor Wembanyama the No. 1 pick Thursday.
The next legitimate trade option appears to begin at No. 5. Houston has been mentioned for various trade options with the fourth pick, but opposing front offices believe the Rockets are more likely to stand pat at this point and tend to select the Overtime Elite guard Amen Thompson.
The Pistons are considering a final group of prospects at the fifth position, where Detroit could still find someone available later in the lottery that the Pistons would have been happy to select at No. 5. Utah has been in contact with the Pistons about trading up from Nos. 9 and 16, according to league sources, with rival teams of the belief that the Jazz are looking to get over Washington’s eighth pick to select Arkansas guard Anthony Black. Utah has also reached out to Indiana about trading the seventh pick, sources said. But the Jazz may have to trade over Orlando — or find a trade with the Magic at No. 6 — to secure a shot at Black. Utah has made guard Collin Sexton available in trade talks around the league, sources said.
One of the more interesting names on the trade market is Memphis point guard Tyus Jones. The Duke product has emerged as one of, if not the top backup point guards in the league, giving the Grizzlies starter-level production when Memphis All-Star Ja Morant has been unavailable during their split Grizzlies tenure. Jones could prove to be a valuable piece for Memphis after Morant was handed a 25-game suspension for what the NBA called conduct prejudicial to the league. However, the Grizzlies are exploring trade options to help Jones land a full-time starting position elsewhere, league sources told Yahoo Sports, while Memphis has prioritized upgrading the team’s wing depth. Small forward Dillon Brooks is expected to sign elsewhere in free agency, with Houston remaining the destination most often mentioned for Brooks by league personnel.
Jones had discussions with San Antonio last summer, sources said, before re-signing with Memphis on a two-year, $29 million deal. The Spurs no longer appear to be a viable destination for Jones after his younger brother, Tre, emerged as San Antonio’s starting point guard last season ahead of his unrestricted free agency later this month. If Fred VanVleet heads elsewhere on the open market, would Tyus Jones plus draft capital be enough for Toronto to part ways with OG Anunoby? The Raptors are said to still hold a high price for their prized forward.
Scanning the league, the Clippers might be the most logical trade partner for the Grizzlies. For all the connections made between both Los Angeles clubs and Chris Paul, there have been no significant trade talks between the Clippers and Wizards to trade the 38-year-old veteran, sources said, although Los Angeles could very well match Paul’s salary with Marcus Morris and Robert Covington’s expiring contracts, there appears to be mutual interest between the Clippers and Paul. Russell Westbrook’s return is still very much at stake for the Clippers this offseason.
Westbrook has been receptive to playing a backup role, and Los Angeles has three wings in Eric Gordon, Norman Powell and Morris who could match Tyus Jones for salary purposes. Morris seems like the Clippers would prefer to part ways in this scenario. The veteran forward has been viewed by rival front offices as a clear trade candidate ever since Morris fell out of Ty Lue’s rotation during the 2022-23 regular season.