The future of Damian Lillard has been a major talking point over the last few months thanks to the turmoil within the Portland Trail Blazers organization. It reached a peak this week when news leaked that Lillard wants a supermax extension this July, which would pay him over $50 million per year as he enters his mid-30s and effectively hamstring the team from making any significant moves. Given their current roster construction is very far from a contender, the outcome is essentially either give Lillard big money or move him for assets and kick-start a rebuild should the report prove to be true.
This means everyone's favorite activity is now trying to figure out where Lillard fits best if he got traded sooner rather than later. Colin Cowherd has spent two days arguing why he makes perfect sense for the Boston Celtics. Yesterday, he proposed Boston trade Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart for Lillard. Today, he went even further and broke down exactly why Lillard is just what the Celtics need, and vice versa.
Nothing Cowherd says is false from a narrative perspective. The Celtics do not have a dominant, veteran voice in the locker room, which could be contributing to their stumbling start this year. Lillard's physical decline could be put off by playing with Jayson Tatum, who has missed a total of three games in his career outside of a COVID stint last season. Their games would complement each other.
But, just as he did yesterday, Cowherd is totally ignoring what the Celtics actually need. Take it from someone who watches them regularly: they do not need a scoring point guard to win. Secondary creation has been a nagging issue, to be sure, but it's impossible to know if that problem is solved with this roster because Brown has missed over half the season with a hamstring injury.
The reason the Celtics were so disappointing last year was their complete decline defensively. Lillard would help in a lot of areas. He would actively hurt Boston's defensive efforts. Maybe he could be a little better on that end if he doesn't have to carry the load offensively every single game, but there's only so much a guard of his size and stature can do. He's a slight upgrade over 2020 Kemba Walker but a laughable downgrade from perennial All-NBA defender Marcus Smart.
The Celtics are a frustrating team that people are eager to try and solve because they have starpower and made a deep playoff run recently. Adding Lillard by subtracting Brown and Smart is not the quick fix Cowherd thinks it is. It only exacerbates the team's biggest issue while adding marginal value otherwise. The importance of a "leader" like Lillard is not a tangible thing. That doesn't lessen it's theoretical value, but when Brad Stevens is thinking about blowing up the roster to add that factor, it's a much harder sell than someone who actually helps the team's weaknesses.
Lillard is a great player. The Celtics would not be a significantly better team with him. They're much, much better off seeing if Brown can become something even greater than sending him off early to get Lillard. The only goal that accomplishes is a consistent mid-round playoff exit.