As we wait for trade talks to restart between the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers, recent reports indicate that Portland could seek to trade Damian Lillard somewhere other than Miami, his preferred destination.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Heat “want Damian Lillard. They just want him for as little as they’re going to have to give up. They’re essentially daring Portland to go out into the marketplace, which Portland is doing, and see if they can find better.”
This week, the Action Network’s Matt Moore said on an episode of Locked On NBA that the Toronto Raptors have “kicked the tires” on Lillard.
Lillard has made it clear that Miami is his one and only desired destination. The Miami Herald reported this week that if Lillard is traded to a team other than Miami, “he is expected to ask to be traded to the Heat.”
Still, there could be teams willing to take the risk and sell Lillard on their championship vision. One such team could be the aforementioned Raptors, who have made big swings that have led to a championship in the past (see: Leonard, Kawhi).
What would the Raptors realistically be willing to give up? Like the Heat, they are a team looking to make the next step. So it’s unlikely they would be willing to trade top veterans to land the 33-year-old Lillard. Guys like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Jakob Poeltl would be more valuable as supporting players around Lillard.
Anunoby is an obvious Portland target at first glance, but he’ll be a free agent next summer (when he opts out of his $19.9 million option) and will be in for a raise that could approach the max. It’s not wise for the rebuilding Blazers to tie up 25% of their cap to a 27-year-old wing who likely maxes out as a third option on a contender.
Toronto’s best young player is Scottie Barnes. Would they be willing to trade the 22-year-old former Rookie of the Year? That question has been hotly debated on the usual social channels, but we don’t see guys like Barnes (young, cheap, unlimited upside) traded for guys like Lillard (old, expensive, limited window) very often.
Trading for Lillard wouldn’t be like trading for Kawhi. When the Raptors traded for Kawhi, he was 27 years old — smack dab in the middle of his prime. He also had one year left on his contract, and they traded DeMar DeRozan’s negative contract to do it. In other words, trading for Kawhi freed Toronto from salary cap hell. Trading for Lillard would send them to its fiery depths.
So with that said, Toronto’s potential package is limited to an assortment of role players and distant draft picks. Also worth mentioning, the first-round pick the Raptors traded to San Antonio is protected through 2026, meaning they can’t trade a first until 2028. In total, the offer is a lesser version of Miami’s pu pu platter.