Damian Lillard Names 2014 Free-Agent Wish List for Portland Trail Blazers

Jim CavanContributor IJuly 1, 2014

Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams dribbles the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Tuesday, April 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

It’s become the nature of the NBA beast for a team to have its players weigh in on how best to round out the roster. Even if the advice is never really taken seriously.

Everyone would love to have LeBron James or Kevin Durant, obviously, so credit Damian Lillard for keeping his free-agent wish list squarely in the realm of reality.

Lillard recently sent a pair of text messages to CSN Northwest’s Chris Haynes, in which the Portland Trail Blazers point guard rattled off a few names he’d like to see his team pursue:

“Yeah…Mo Williams,” read one text, which was followed up by, “Channing Frye, Vince Carter, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza.”

Williams, it should be noted, spent one season as Lillard’s backup—the lone bright spot on one of the league’s most woeful second units—before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

As the ledger stands, the Blazers will have somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million to spend before cresting the league’s salary cap. Of the five players Lillard mention, only Ariza and Hawes could be seen as warranting such a price tag.

If, however, Portland makes a cap-encroaching play on another free agent, it would still have its mid-level exception (around $5 million) to spend—a reasonable number for everyone on Lillard’s wish list.

Any one of those players, it should be noted, would doubtless help Portland bolster its depth.

So kudos to Mr. Lillard on understanding the salary cap.

The other option, of course, would be for the Blazers to dangle some of their young assets in an effort to get some bench punch via trade, a strategy underscored in a recent column by Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb:

There are plenty of teams out there who'd love to get their hands on some of Portland's young assets. It's unlikely the Trail Blazers will break up their starting lineup, but you could easily see a rebuilding team seeking a package built around guys like McCollum and Leonard. Those are precisely the kind of prospects for whom a bad team will happily wait.

Trading partners might include teams like the Philadelphia 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks. Even emergent, young teams like the Charlotte Hornets might be in the market for some new blood.

Could Portland gets its hands on a more proven veteran like Thaddeus Young or O.J. Mayo? There's no reason to rule the possibility out, and there's no doubt an acquisition of that magnitude would give Portland a starting-caliber sixth man.

Portland’s core—led by Lillard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum—is certainly good enough to keep it squarely in the Western Conference playoff fold. Competing with the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, however, takes top-to-bottom talent the likes of which the Blazers simply haven’t had.

It’s hard to say how much influence a player of Lillard’s caliber (an All-Star, but not quite a top-tier superstar) really has over his team’s abilities to effectively construct a roster—although it seems certain such opinions wouldn’t be totally ignored.

Particularly not when it's the names on Lillard’s list, all of which make at least some semblance of sense.