The Portland Trail Blazers were long thought to be on their way towards a blockbuster trade, rumored to be dangling the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and Anfernee Simons as trade bait in hopes that a team would give up a star player.
As it so happened, the Blazers wound up keeping the No. 3 pick, selecting an entertaining young guard in Scoot Henderson as their potential future franchise point guard.
A move that hasn’t led to face of the franchise Damian Lillard calling out of Portland yet. Though it is one that could have him questioning how long he wants to stay.
Which is why, in the aftermath of the 2023 NBA Draft, the one trade the Blazers must make after drafting Scoot Henderson is a deal centered around Lillard that lands them Los Angeles Clippers star forward Paul George.
Blazers receive: Paul George, Bones Hyland, Duncan Robinson, Nikola Jovic, 2027 first-round pick (via Heat)
Clippers receive: Tyler Herro, Anfernee Simons, Haywood Highsmith
Heat receive: Damian Lillard, Marcus Morris Sr.
For the Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers finally pivot away from the Damian Lillard era but remain competitive with the acquisition of a trade package headlined by Paul George, an eight-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA selection.
George heads to Portland from the Los Angeles Clippers along with Bones Hyland, a crafty bucket-getter for their second unit that will look to replace Anfernee Simons. Duncan Robinson and Nikola Jovic provide frontcourt depth and interesting skillsets, with Robinson a 6-foot-7 sharpshooter and Jovic possessing guard skills at 6-foot-10. Considering how well they’ve looked in the player development department, both Hyland and Jovic could have their best years in Portland.
In the aftermath of this trade, the starting lineup for the Blazers would presumably by George at small forward, with 2023 No. 3 pick Scoot Henderson starting at point guard and soon-to-be sophomore guard Shaedon Sharpe sharing the backcourt with him. A Lillard trade could have an effect on whether or not Jerami Grant re-signs but, given what the Blazers can pay the veteran forward, only a handful of teams would be a legitimate threat to steal him away.
Barring his own trade, Jusuf Nurkic will return as starting center.
Subsequently, the presumed starting lineup (Henderson, Sharpe, George, Grant, Nurkic) has more two-way potential than the Blazers previous iterations of playoff-caliber teams. Their second unit, a group that will include some combination of Hyland, Robinson, Jovic, Kris Murray and Keon Johnson, could have plenty of balance itself.
For the Clippers
Motivated to finally surrender Paul George, acquiring two up-and-coming stars for their backcourt in Tyler Herro and Anfernee Simons — both proven 20-point scorers — could make the Los Angeles Clippers even more exciting next season.
Simons is one of the craftier backcourt players while Herro is an excellent on-ball scorer. There will be defensive concerns because both can be susceptible to being beat off-the-dribble depending on who their matchup is, but this only increases the importance of players like Norman Powell and Terance Mann, who can relieve one of Simons or Herro while still being an offensive threat.
Should Kawhi Leonard be traded after George, and depending on what the ensuing trade package would look like, Powell could be starting at small forward next season.
Especially if the Clippers target a player such as Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam in a deal, which could entice both teams due to Siakam’s expiring $37.9 million contract. The New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs are potential trade destinations for Kawhi as well amid a potential Clippers rebuild, due to their combination of draft picks and young players.
For the Heat
Trading Tyler Herro for Damian Lillard should be an obvious decision for the Miami Heat. Getting off of Duncan Robinson’s contract by adding a player that may fit better defensively in Marcus Morris Sr. is a solid move as well.
With Lillard’s arrival, a Big Three of he, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will be the headline. Not that it doesn’t make sense, picturing how Dame and Butler taking over in clutch moments or how Dame and Bam will work together in the high pick-and-roll. To that point, throughout the 2023 NBA Playoffs, it was clear that if the Heat had just a little more firepower that they could have gone all the way.
So again, adding a better scorer than they would have had even with Tyler Herro healthy and a more productive two-way player than Robinson is all but a no-brainer for the Heat.
It’s as simple as that.