Can the Pelicans match the Raptors offer for Damian Lillard?

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers. Herbert Jones, New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

On Monday, ESPN’s Marc Spears reported that the Toronto Raptors have emerged as a serious candidate to land Portland Trail Blazers All-NBA guard Damian Lillard.

And while the exact package they are offering is uncertain at this point, their best offer likely revolves around an itinerary of assets featuring former Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes as the headliner.

Despite having a slumpy sophomore campaign, Barnes is still a promising young two-way forward (he only just turned 22 this offseason). A package involving him is better than anything the Miami Heat (the team Lillard wants to go to) can reasonably provide Portland with.

But just because the Heat can’t compete with a Barnes-centric trade package doesn’t mean that no one can match that offer. Heck, maybe our New Orleans Pelicans could match/exceed that return value if they really wanted to put their hat in the mix. The question now becomes: what would said trade package look like?

Since we don’t know what kind of pick compensation the Raptors are planning on giving the Trail Blazers, we will focus on the current player capital portion of this transaction. Do the Pelicans have a player(s) who is more valuable to the Blazers than Barnes?

The easiest answer here is Zion Williamson. Williamson is only a year and 26 days older than Barnes. And while Barnes has All-NBA potential, Williamson has already played at an All-NBA level.

The problem with a Williamson for Lillard deal is that it doesn’t make much sense for New Orleans. A Lillard/Brandon Ingram duo plus some depth would make the Pelicans a formidable squad. But with teams like the Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, and Los Angeles Lakers occupying the top of the Western Conference, it is hard to see them as a true title contender.

For the Lillard trade to be worth their while, they would need to be able to pair him with Williamson and Ingram. So, the Pelicans would need to offer something that doesn’t include Williamson or Ingram).

With that constraint in mind, the next best package the Pelicans can muster up is one revolving around Trey Murphy III and Dyson Daniels (with picks and salary filler, of course). Picks and filler being equal, are Murphy/Daniels enough to match/exceed Barnes?

Given his pedigree, Barnes has the highest ceiling of these three players. But the Pelicans pieces have a couple of things going for them. First, while Barnes has the highest ceiling, I’d argue that Murphy has the highest floor. He was legitimately better than the former ROY last season (both of their sophomore seasons). And unlike Barnes, he has an elite jumper to fall back on if all else fails. His shooting also makes him a great complimentary piece to pair with on-ball guys like Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson.

And second, having two young prospects gives you more bites at the apple than having one does. One of the biggest failings of the Lillard era was Portland’s inability to surround their superstar guard with talented two-way wings and forwards. By acquiring Murphy and Daniels, you have a chance at adding two guys to your new core with two-way potential (instead of just adding one with Barnes).

I get the appeal behind Barnes, but if New Orleans can match all the ancillary parts of the deal, I think adding Murphy/Daniels may be more appealing for Portland. And on the flip side, it would give New Orleans a chance to form their most prolific Big 3 in franchise history. Now, we just need to see if New Orleans is willing to get in the mix.

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