NBA Rumors: Latest on Damian Lillard Trade, CJ McCollum and Lauri Markkanen

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2021

NBA Rumors: Latest on Damian Lillard Trade, CJ McCollum and Lauri Markkanen

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    The initial flurry of signings and trades from NBA's free agency has had some time to settle, but in the Association, the next league-changing move is always right around the corner. 

    Though some of the biggest names available in the market have found new homes, there are still some high-level free agents available. Specifically, Lauri Markkanen is looking for a new home as a restricted free agent with Chicago. 

    Then there's Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. The star guard has been busy in Tokyo helping lead Team USA to a gold medal, but now that he's returned to the States, the rumor mill is bound to heat up with Portland having a relatively quiet offseason to this point. 

    Here's a look at what the latest buzz is surrounding the Blazers, their star guard and the Finnish forward who could be part of a promising young core. 

Sixers Keeping an Eye on Damian Lillard Situation

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    Speculation that Damian Lillard may request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazersa hasn't been dampened by their moves this offseason. While the star guard was representing his country in the Olympics the Blazers were busy signing Cody Zeller and Tony Snell. 

    That's not exactly a strong pitch for Dame to stay with a franchise that has made it to the Conference Finals just once in his nine seasons with the team. 

    While Lillard could decide to give new head coach Chauncey Billups and the team the front office has assembled a shot, the Philadelphia Sixers remain hopeful that won't be the case. 

    Derek Bodner of The Athletic reported the Sixers have had their eye on Lillard and his situation for a long time, likening it to their pursuit of another superstar when Daryl Morey arrived:

    "From the very start of Morey's tenure in Philadelphia the organization was almost singularly focused on monitoring the James Harden situation in Houston, according to sources both inside and out of the organization. Since the Sixers season ended, the team has similarly kept a watchful eye on the status of Lillard in Portland."

    Should the 31-year-old ask to be traded out of the only franchise he's played for, the Sixers are in a good position to trade for him. They will likely have the most talented player any team is willing to send in return for Lillard in Ben Simmons. 

    Questions remain about Simmons' ability to be the best player on a title-winning team, but there's no debating his efficacy as a regular-season force. The 25-year-old would give them a star in his prime to build around while staying relatively competitive in the West. 

Blazers Not Actively Shopping CJ McCollum

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    If blowing things up is in the cards for Portland, it isn't tipping its hand at this point. Lillard has yet to request a trade, and it looks like the team has no plans of moving its other guard, CJ McCollum. 

    The new president of the NBA Players Association would make sense as a trade chip if the team is going to move away from their current core. The three years and $100 million he has left on his contract is a lot if Portland isn't going to be contending in the near future. 

    Jason Quick of The Athletic reported Friday the Blazers are not "actively shopping" McCollum right now. Whether it's a lack of offers they find attractive or their self-evaluation of his value to the franchise, the team isn't looking to deal the guard yet. 

    The Blazers have a bit of a logjam at the 2-guard. They re-signed Norman Powell in the offseason. He is a natural fit as the successor of McCollum, and the team is relatively light on forward options. 

    A team shouldn't be in the business of trading a player just to mix things up, but this is a case where it could make sense. The Blazers have been stuck in a cycle of not-quite-good-enough to contend for the vast majority of Lillard's time with the franchise. 

    A deal involving McCollum that brings them back some help on the wing or another All-Star caliber player is the kind of thing that could convince Lillard to stay. 

Pelicans, Hornets Both Interested in Lauri Markkanen Sign-and-Trade

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    Lauri Markkanen is one of the few free agents who made Bleacher Report's top 20 free agents list heading into last week who is still available. 

    The 24-year-old may not have lived up to his billing as 2017's No. 7 pick in Chicago, but there's still a lot to like about the seven-footer. For one, his shooting should be a welcome addition to any front court. He's also a player who would benefit from playing alongside an elite playmaker. 

    He didn't have that experience in Chicago, and he's still young enough there could be untapped potential. 

    It comes as no surprise, then, that there are teams trying to figure out how to add him. One such team is reportedly the New Orleans Pelicans. 

    NBA insider Marc Stein reported the Pelicans are interested in Markkanen as part of a sign-and-trade. For what it's worth, the deal sending Lonzo Ball to the Bulls has not officially been completed to this point. Stein reported the Bulls are looking for a first-round pick in return. 

    The veteran reporter also noted that Markkenen wants to leave Chicago but may be forced to play one more year to get to unrestricted free agency. 

    Jordan Schultz of ESPN also reported the Charlotte Hornets have "emerged as a sleeper team" for the Bulls forward. They believe he would be a good player to pair with LaMelo Ball with his shooting and ability to space the floor. 

    The Hornets would also have to be a sign-and-trade option for the forward. However, with the forward wanting out of Chicago, the Bulls would be wise to do what they can to get something out of the former top-10 pick now while they still can.