A sign-and-trade could be key to Celtics pulling off Damian Lillard trade

Damian Lillard trade rumors, Celtics, NBA rumors (Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)
Damian Lillard trade rumors, Celtics, NBA rumors (Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Boston Celtics might be on the outskirts of a Damian Lillard trade unless they leverage a sign-and-trade with a still-unsigned player.

The flurry of NBA rumors are behind us with free agency having settled down, but a few shoes still need to drop. The biggest one, of course, is the Damian Lillard trade.

Lillard, after spending the entirety of his career thus far with them, asked the Portland Trail Blazers for a trade over the weekend, the latest star to push his way out of a smaller market. The Miami Heat want Lillard, and Lillard wants Miami, but the Blazers need to do what’s right for them, not Lillard.

That said, there is a play of power happening, and Portland would be wise to satisfy their star in the deal — despite his lack of a no-trade clause — to keep themselves in favor with future stars in the league that might be willing to sign with Portland.

While the Heat appear to be front-runners, the Celtics want him, too. Jayson Tatum has been rumored to be pushing for him to get himself to Boston.

The ultimate determining factor, though, might be Grant Williams.

Grant Williams sign-and-trade could make Damian Lillard trade with Celtics possible

Restricted free agent Grant Williams remains unsigned to an extension, and is one of the best free agents still available. What better way to convince the Blazers they’re getting a deal than suggesting they could get Williams?

It’s not going to be without a huge sacrifice for the Celtics. The Blazers will want a massive deal in exchange for Lillard, as they should. It could look like this:

The Celtics also send out two future first-round picks in 2024 and 2026. Protections could be added, but they may not be necessary.

It’s a huge haul for Portland, and a gamble of ungodly proportions on Lillard working out. Boston gives up plenty of depth — and notably, gets a lot smaller by sending out (Robert) Williams — in the deal. They also officially close the chapter on Jaylen Brown.

This has several moving parts, chief among them Williams agreeing to the deal. A sign-and-trade involves the player agreeing to the terms. This deal included a three-year deal for Williams valued at $30 million in total, declining from $12 million in 2023 to $10 million in 2024 and $8 million in 2025.

That structure is necessary both to match salaries and to get the Blazers on board.

For Williams, the deal would need to be better than what he can get from offer sheets, and what he thinks he can get alternatively in unrestricted free agency in the next few years.

Jared Weiss reported on Tuesday morning that Williams leaving as a sign-and-trade or returning on the mid-level exception is the most likely outcome (subscription required).

Williams can receive offer sheets from other teams on July 6, and a host of teams are reportedly interested in driving up the price. He also reported Boston wants a first-round pick in return for Williams. Packaging him alongside Brown for Lillard might be even better.

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