Superstar tandems are now all over the NBA: LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the Los Angeles Lakers, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George for the LA Clippers, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the Brooklyn Nets, etc. It’s more interesting when talent is scattered to more squads.
Don’t get your hopes up, but we may eventually see a new one in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard. According to NBA insider Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the two All-Stars were cooking something up during the off-season, prior to Giannis signing his supermax deal with the Milwaukee Bucks last December 22nd.
Right around the 5:08 mark, Haynes touched on the subject:
“If Giannis [Antetokounmpo] were to leave Milwaukee, I’m talking about this past summer, before he signed the max extension. If the team didn’t make the necessary moves to make Giannis feel comfortable, I believe there was a team that he would have considered leaving for, and that team is the Portland Trail Blazers. Sources have told me that Giannis and Damian Lillard, they’ve gotten really close over the last few months. And they were talking about working out together.
I want to explain how important that is to everybody. Giannis doesn’t workout with anybody that’s not on his team. He’s turned down working out with LeBron James and turned down being part of the Space Jam 2 movie. He doesn’t do that. Him and Dame were supposed to work out.
I’m trying to be careful how I’m saying this, I don’t want to get to saying it’s recruiting. But sources have told me that both of them were talking with each other about the possibility of what it would look like playing with each other, you know, when their contracts allowed so. I believe Dame was trying to tell Giannis about what it would look like him playing in Portland and same, visa versa, what it would look like him playing in Milwaukee.”
Let’s generate some hype first before we discuss the humps they have to go through.
Obviously, the two joining forces is nothing short of intriguing, maybe more interesting than the current star duos we have. On one side, you have Giannis, the reigning MVP of the last two years and one of the most physically imposing and intimidating players in the NBA, while on other you have Lillard, easily one of the deadliest scorers in recent memory.
What makes the pairing more exciting is both players have long-needed such a teammate – Giannis a high-scoring, ball-handling guard and Lillard a top-tier forward. It may be the modern version of the Shaquille O’Neal-Allen Iverson duo we could’ve had in the early 2000s.
Now, for the obstacles:
For wider context salary-wise, keep in mind that Giannis’ five-year, record-setting $228 million contract is not the only the considerable road block for the possible team up. Lillard is also locked in long term with the Portland Trail Blazers – the deal is still worth $227 million, and it’s until the 2024-25 season.
Of course, a trade is not out of the picture in such scenarios, which we’ve seen plenty of times over the last couple of seasons. Paul George signed a four-year, $136.9 million contract for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2018, but then forced his way out of OKC the very next year.
But, then again, the trade pieces are not aligned (at least not this time). The Bucks have given up multiple first-round picks last November to acquire Jrue Holiday – potentially five, including the pick swaps. One or two first-rounders will not cut it for the Blazers, and Holiday and/or Khris Middleton aren’t exactly desirable pieces in exchange for a superstar since they are already 29 and 30, respectively.
Doing it the other way around won’t be easy as well. While the Blazers have their first round picks intact, their only solid trade asset is CJ McCollum and maybe Gary Trent Jr., who’s currently an up-and-comer at best despite the good potential. Jusuf Nurkic can be up there too, but his value is dipping as he entered the 2020-21 season out-of-shape, and is struggling as a result.
Well, whichever it is, fans may need to have their eyes glued into this rumour. It will not happen this season, and many other aspects will have to shape up before it gets discussed, but overall, it’s sure to add a ton of storylines for 2021 off-season.