May 27, 2023 | 1:49 PM
The Nets are genuinely interested in keeping Damian Lillard away from Portland.
But it raises a much more nuanced debate than just whether the Nets should or shouldn’t trade the Trail Blazers star.
that’s too simplistic.
You can’t do Lillard calculations without all the variables.
Is this summer the right time for the Nets to get back into superstar business?
Is Lillard the star to aim for? How much does it cost?
There is an argument that no matter how great Lillard is, he will not single-handedly bring the Nets into contention.
A 13-15 record past the trade deadline and an exit in the first round of the playoffs suggests that’s probably true, but what does it take to get him? Depending on the circumstances, he will surely bring the two closer together.
The Nets can’t control their own draft picks thanks to a 2021 trade for James Harden, but they also have no incentive to rebuild.
General manager Sean Marks said their plan was to compete and there was no doubt Lillard would help with that.
Since the 1990-91 season, 30 of the 32 NBA champions have been led by past or future MVPs.
Lillard doesn’t have an MVP award, but he brings the scoring punches and shot creations the Nets desperately need.
“I think our team is like Milwaukee without Giannis.” [Antetokounmpo] In a way,” said Spencer Dinwiddie, pointing to Michal Bridges, Nick Claxton and even Ben Simmons. “But we don’t have Giannis.”
And they are unlikely to catch him.
But will they be strong enough to take Lillard?
And should they try?
It’s easy to forgive the Nets and their fans if they’re reluctant to chase another star right after Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving caused more drama than a victory and collapsed spectacularly.
Since taking office in 2019, the Nets have won just one playoff series and have been riddled with suspensions and controversy.
But that’s one of the biggest reasons Lillard is so appealing.
All of the Big 3 were claimed by Brooklyn within a year.
If Lillard’s persistence with the Portland franchise, which has reached the conference finals once in his 11-year career, shows, it’s that he’s loyal and low-maintenance.
Lillard has practiced with Bridges over the summer and calls him his favorite small forward.
They would provide the Nets with a powerful 1-2 scoring punch.
their timeline and his timeline
There are legitimate concerns about Lillard’s age.
He’ll be 33 by next season, but his skills are sure to wane.
Eventually all players will do it.
But Lillard made the All-NBA Third Team this season, averaging a career-high 32.2 points per game.
There is still a lot of sand left in his hourglass, but the trick is determining how much.
The Post asked both Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller about the wisdom of the Nets in pursuing Lillard, and both supported such a move.
“Anytime you can get a top-three player at your position, you have to try it,” Smith said. “There are top three players in each position, and there is also generational talent. They don’t have it yet, so yes, if it’s available, that’s the goal.”
Miller helped the TNT team lose to the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs and realized how much the Nets needed a scorer like Lillard.
“I said to myself, if they had a real number one, this would be a different team,” Miller said. “You would argue Brooklyn in a different light… Whoever No. 1 is, you mentioned Damian Lillard.
“I personally believe in every team.” [needs one]. …every team has a dog and someone who throws the ball to win the game. Brooklyn doesn’t have that type of player. If they did… we would see them differently. And it’s New York, that city needs famous players. So if you have the chance to get No. 1 and grow around that No. 1, do it. ”
But how much does it cost?
Lillard could become an unrestricted free agent within three years.
Will he re-sign?
Even if he does, he’ll make an estimated $58.5 million in the 2025-26 season and a staggering $63.2 million in subsequent seasons.
Sure, it’ll be mitigated somewhat by increased TV revenue, but if he were to drop, let’s say, 10 points in a season when his average age is 36, that’s an unacceptable amount.
Nets owner Joe Tsai has proven he is willing to pay a huge luxury tax to build a superteam, but would he spend it on a second-round exit?
And the Nets would have to pay Portland as well as Lillard.
The Blazers are keen to keep the star (they plan to trade the No. 3 pick for the veteran to appease him), and the point guard will have plenty of competing offers.
He’s rumored to have a relationship with the 76ers, and other teams could be in the bid as well.
What will the Nets bid look like?
The Nets will have the fourth-largest draft budget through 2029, and Portland will be looking to tap into it.
If Durant gets four first-round picks, the Blazers are likely to start there.
They’ll try to start the roster pick with Bridges, but it’s probably not the starter. The next big thing will be the Claxton.
To keep Bridges, the Nets need instead add Simmons (with more sweetener to suit Portland’s palate) or a pair like Dinwiddie and Royce O’Neal for salary match purposes. right.
Could Dorian Finney-Smith be added to keep Claxton the perfect complement to Lillard’s defense? Will they be able, and should they even land him?
They will decide over the next month or two.