Laughable Damian Lillard trade shines bright light on Utah’s return for Rudy Gobert

In Wednesday’s stunning three-team trade, the Portland Trail Blazers astonishingly received less for superstar Damian Lillard than the Utah Jazz did in their deal for Rudy Gobert. The trade of Gobert from Utah to the Minnesota Timberwolves stands as one of the most shocking and lopsided deals in recent NBA history.

In a full rebuild such as the one underway in Portland, unprotected picks are paramount and possibly the most vital asset. It’s the lifeblood of a successful rebuild, not a 33-year-old guard (Jrue Holiday) who’s on the cusp of leaving his prime or a young big man (Deandre Ayton) who comes into an organization with significant baggage. 

In July 2022, the Jazz sent three-time All-Star Gobert to the Timberwolves for a package that included Malik Beasley, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Bolmaro, Jarred Vanderbilt and five first-round draft picks. One of those picks has already turned into Walker Kessler, who has the potential to be another Gobert. Another pick turned into Keyonte George, whom Utah selected 16th overall in June.

Utah further reshaped its roster by trading Beasley and Vanderbilt to the Los Angeles Lakers for Russell Westbrook, Juan Toscano-Anderson and a 2027 first-round draft pick. 

In 23 minutes a game as a rookie, Kessler averaged 9.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks and shot 72 percent from the field. When projected per 36 minutes, he recorded averages of 14.4 points, 13.1 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. There’s potential for him to surpass Gobert in the long run, particularly offensively, given Gobert’s lack of improvement on offense throughout his entire career.

Oh, and the Jazz have three more first-round picks to play with.

In contrast, Portland’s return for Lillard is laughable. They received Holiday, Ayton, two pick swaps and one unprotected first-round pick.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Blazers plan to trade Holiday for assets. 

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