Houston Rockets Damian Lillard trade #1: Cap saviors
Part of what has held the Trail Blazers back in recent years is that their salary cap situation has made it difficult for them to add impact players in free agency. The fact that they’re employing this version of Carmelo Anthony should tell you all you need to know.
This deal doesn’t ease their immediate salary cap situation but it gives them the chance to essentially have a clear salary-cap sheet entering the summer of 2023. If John Wall exercises his player option he’ll have two more years before he comes off the books.
While both Eric Gordon and Eric Bledsoe are under contract for the 2023-24 season, neither of those years are fully guaranteed. The Trail Blazers, if they keep McCollum and Lillard, will be paying those two a combined $80.5 million in 2022-23 and $86.5 million in 2023-24.
This trade might see the Trail Blazers become one of the worst teams in the league but it does allow them to completely reset their franchise and land a mountain of future draft picks to rebuild. The Pelicans, to get this deal to work, will take on McCollum and send Eric Bledsoe and three first-round picks to Portland.
The Rockets will land Damian Lillard and Robert Covington but will have to ship out John Wall, Eric Gordon, and five first-round picks. Portland snags the Rockets’ 2021, 2023, and 2025 first-round picks, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2024 and 2026 first-round picks, which is an impressive haul that could see them land three or four lottery picks.
While all of these packages could entice the Trail Blazers, the fact remains that Damian Lillard probably won’t want to go to the team with the worst record in the league. However, if he wants to leave and the Trail Blazers want the absolute best package then the Rockets have as good a chance as anyone to land him.