Golden State Warriors fans will be eagerly looking on from afar as a trade surrounding Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard seemingly inches closer as training camp approaches.
Although the Warriors nor one of their pacific rivals is expected to land Lillard himself, they could still get involved in what’s presenting as the potential of a multi-layered deal.
The Phoenix Suns potential involvement in the Damian Lillard trade could mean good things for the Golden State Warriors.
According to a report from GOPHNX.com’s Gerald Bourguet, the Phoenix Suns have emerged as a team that could help broker a deal between the Trail Blazers and another team that would see Lillard depart the franchise.
"“While the Suns lack the assets and/or contracts to trade for Lillard or Harden themselves, one source referred to the Suns as a “mystery team” in regards to their potential involvement, Bourguet wrote. “Another called them a “dark horse” to help facilitate a deal as an additional party”."
Further reports suggest Phoenix’s involvement could include sending former first overall pick Deandre Ayton to Portland in exchange for Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic.
Despite arguments to the contrary, moving Ayton for Nurkic would be a major downgrade for the championship-aspiring Suns. While dealing the 25-year-old for a more defensive-minded center to surround Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal makes sense, Nurkic isn’t the player that fits the mould.
Nurkic had a defensive rating of 114 last season, far from the sub-110 mark that usually aligns with high-level defensive centers. Since a devastating broken leg in 2019, the seven-footer hasn’t been anywhere near the sort of defensive anchor a championship-contending team should be targeting.
The evaluation of a potential deal can’t be centered purely on Ayton v Nurkic. The Suns big man will make $32.5 million this season in comparison to Nurkic’s $16.9 million, meaning Phoenix should get more assets back in the trade.
The Suns would want to get another high-level role player in the deal though, otherwise they’ll almost assuredly be a more inferior team with Nurkic as opposed to Ayton. Either way, it will be a fascinating watch for Warrior fans with Golden State set to host Phoenix on opening night next month.