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When will Damian Lillard, James Harden be traded?

The two guards have requested trades but there is no traction for either.

Portland Trail Blazers v Philadelphia 76ers
Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers in action against James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers during a game at Wells Fargo Center on March 10, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Trail Blazers 120-119.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The 2023 NBA offseason got sent to another gear when Philadelphia 76ers guard James Harden and Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard both requested trades from their teams. Harden, who held a player option, chose to opt into his deal but expressed a desire to move to a different team. Lillard, a lifelong Blazer, finally decided he had enough in Portland. He specifically wants to go to the Miami Heat, although the reported trade package hasn’t convinced the Blazers yet.

Summer League has come and gone with zero movement on either front. Here’s a look at why there hasn’t been much traction with Harden or Lillard, and when fans can expect a deal to be done.

James Harden

Harden’s trade request is odd, especially since the 76ers were a win away from going to the conference finals for the first time in more than 20 years. The guard had some big outings in the second round against the Celtics, but also put up some stinkers in the 4-3 series loss. Perhaps Harden doesn’t believe Joel Embiid can stay healthy at the critical moments, but Harden hasn’t exactly been a proven playoff performer in his career.

The complication here is the 76ers are trying to win a title. Embiid is coming off his first MVP season and looks to be at the peak of his powers. Tyrese Maxey is a rising guard who should continue to improve. Philadelphia won’t settle for draft picks and young prospects in a Harden trade. The team needs players who can help immediately.

That limits the number of teams who would be interested in Harden. The Los Angeles Clippers have been the primary team linked to the guard, and they do have some rotation players Philadelphia would be interested in. Does a package of Norman Powell, Terance Mann and pick swaps do enough for the 76ers? Probably not.

Would the Heat or New York Knicks be interested in Harden? Would the 76ers trade him to a team in the same conference, in particular a team they would potentially meet in the playoffs?

There’s a real chance Harden remains a 76er by the time the 2023-24 season starts. A deadline deal is not out of the question either, although we saw how Harden showed up to training camp when he requested a trade from the Houston Rockets. Having a malcontent who doesn’t care on the team is bad for the locker room, and the 76ers won’t want to have problems ahead of what they believe could be a championship season. Expect more traction around Harden as training camp approaches.

Damian Lillard

This situation is very different from Harden’s, largely because Lillard has a destination in mind. The Blazers are also looking to undergo a full rebuild, so there’s no confusion about what they’d want in return for their star guard. The problem now is centered around what exactly the Blazers can get back, especially if Lillard wants to go to Miami no matter what.

Teams outside the Heat won’t want to give up major assets for a player who isn’t 100% bought in. The Heat, knowing they have some leverage, won’t want to gut the entire roster just to add Lillard.

A package centered around Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic, Duncan Robinson and draft assets would theoretically be enough to give the Blazers some peace in sending Lillard to his preferred team. Kyle Lowry and Jusuf Nurkic could also be involved in this deal, especially since Lowry is an expiring deal and Nurkic’s long-term salary doesn’t help Portland. The Blazers reportedly aren’t fans of Herro, but he’s a 20-point per game player under 25 who has significant playoff experience.

Is there another young player out there Portland can get in a trade? The 76ers aren’t trading Maxey. The Brooklyn Nets aren’t trading Mikal Bridges. Most other teams haven’t been linked to Lillard, or don’t have a package topping Miami. Would the Boston Celtics deal Jaylen Brown in a Lillard trade? The Celtics have been very aggressive when it comes to improving the roster but that Jayson Tatum-Brown duo might never be broken up willingly.

It’s unlikely Lillard is on Portland by the time training camp begins. For now, it seems like the Blazers are content to wait and see how the market shapes up.