Following news of the blockbuster trade which will see Bradley Beal head to the Phoenix Suns, the Miami Heat are now looking elsewhere to bolster their roster this offseason as they seek to extend their reign of supremacy over the Eastern Conference.
As expected, everyone around Heat circles has their eyes set on another marquee target — Damian Lillard, whose longstanding tenure with the Portland Trail Blazers could come to an overdue end this summer.
Adding Lillard to Miami’s nucleus will ensure that the team advances from a plucky team that made a surprising NBA Finals run to early favorites in the East. For that very reason, it’s basically Lillard or bust for Pat Riley and co. this offseason. Here’s why.
The Miami Heat should do whatever it takes to acquire Damian Lillard
The Heat may have won the crown in the East in two of the last four seasons, but they cannot rest on their laurels. In fact, the team is far from the best team on paper, giving them a smaller margin of error to operate than other direct competitors such as Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Cleveland which are oozing with talent across the board.
Of course, the Heat’s hard-nosed culture built on defensive acuity and intangibles gives them a unique edge, but even that can only get you so far. Talent raises ceilings, and Miami — fresh off a Finals defeat — should drool at the chance of snagging a bona fide superstar like Damian Lillard to lead the team with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.
The Eastern Conference’s days of being top-heavy is over. Aside from the presumed contenders already mentioned, it is flocked with other veteran squads and new up-and-comers. Expecting the standings to stand pat next season would be disingenuous to say the least.
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Miami is still much better than most of the teams out East in the grand scheme of things, but adding a well-decorated and dynamic player like Lillard to the deck would be a tremendous boost to their title bid for the foreseeable future. After all, the seven-time All-Star is one of the league’s trickiest players to defend due to his ability to be a gravity-altering force from well beyond the arc while being an explosive playmaker with or without the ball.
Teams coming off a Finals appearance usually do not need a drastic change to remain relevant, but the Miami Heat are unique in that they can afford to make a necessary big splash without a risky, massive concession on their part. Their hypothetical outgoing trade package should not change anytime soon, and as long as the Trail Blazers realize the reality, they should find it alluring for an eventual rebuild.
Ultimately, the extent of the franchise’s realistic window to contend will heavily depend on their ability to finally land an overdue big splash in the form of Damian Lillard. Otherwise, they risk halting an unprecedented stretch of flirting with the Larry O’Brien trophy.