A backcourt teammate who can provide two-way help, a legitimate shooter who can also be a perimeter defender, has been something Blazers guard Damian Lillard has lacked for a large portion of his tenure as an NBA superstar.
At least eventually, he might be able to grasp it. That is, assuming he is prepared to wait until 2024, when Warriors star Klay Thompson will become a free agent. Thompson’s current $190 million contract, which he signed after tearing his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals, has two more years left on it, and he’ll be 34 years old when free agency rolls around.
Thompson Would Prefer to Retain His Warrior Status
To be clear, Thompson would not deliberately enter the free agency market in 2024. One league executive described it to Heavy Sports as follows:
The first thing is that he will not want to leave there freely. If you ask around the league, I don’t think there are many guys happier than Klay Thompson, who plays for the Warriors in the Bay Area. But they have to make harsh decisions, and if one of them is to let Klay depart once his contract expires, he should have some options.
I think they’ll keep him for sentimental reasons, but if you’re talking about losing (Jordan) Poole or (Andrew) Wiggins or even Draymond (Green) in order to keep a 34-year-old Klay Thompson, you know… you’d have to let Klay go.
And they might be able to excuse it. They didn’t treat Klay poorly—they handed him over $200 million a few weeks after he tore his ACL, knowing he’d be sidelined for a year. Maybe he’d take a significant discount to remain; he’s a little eccentric like that, and I’m not sure gaining every cash he can is what motivates him.
But, look, if they let him leave, even at 34, he’ll have teams interested in him.
Klay Might Be a Good Fit in Portland
The thing is, Portland is one of the clubs that would be interested in Thompson. He spent the most of his life just south of the city, near Lake Oswego, before moving to California for high school. He returned to the Pacific Northwest for college, where he played for Washington State.
That’s why Thompson would be interested in collaborating with Lillard, especially if he can regain his previous form. It might also be determined by what Portland does with other free agents.
“That would be difficult because Portland might not have a lot of money depending on what they do with (Jerami) Grant, and I’m not sure how competitive they’ll be with (Damian) Lillard at 34, 35 years old and making $50 million a year,” the executive added. “Even if he leaves the Warriors, he will still want to win.” If Lillard recovers, I like (Portland) for him. But there’s a big if.”