Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard went on record earlier this week say that he believes he’ll return to the team for another season. On the same note, Lillard also pointed to the Brooklyn Nets as a team that might entice the seven-time All-Star should he request a trade.
This entire situation will come to a head in exactly two weeks once the 2023 NBA Draft comes calling from New York City.
Portland boasts the No. 3 pick in the annual event. Lillard has made it crystal clear that he has no intention of taking part in a rebuild with the Blazers, meaning that he wants them to trade that selection as the centerpiece in a package for a proven All-Star. Should that not come to fruition, there’s every reason to believe that Dame will request a trade.
In speaking with Dan Patrick on Thursday, Turner Sports NBA insider Chris Haynes confirmed this belief. His sense in talks with Lillard is that the future Hall of Famer will request a trade should Portland not to what’s necessary to build a contender.
In addition to the Nets, Haynes pointed to the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat as preferred landing spot for Lillard. We’ve read earlier reports that Miami was a potential destination. But this is the first concrete piece of information linking the organization to the future Hall of Famer.
It must also be noted that Haynes literally laughed off the idea of the Boston Celtics being able to lure Lillard to the city. There’s a specific reason for this. But we digress.
Damian Lillard as a fit for the Brooklyn Nets
It’s not 100% known what general manager Sean Marks plans on doing this summer. Brooklyn made a surprise appearance in the NBA Playoffs after trading away stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving back in February.
Acquired from Phoenix in the KD deal, Mikal Bridges played a huge role in the Nets remaining relevant. The wing averaged 26.1 PPG and 4.5 RPG on 48% shooting in 27 games for Brooklyn. There were rumors floating about that the Nets might look to trade Bridges this summer. In fact, Portland came to the Nets about a deal that would send Bridges to the Pacific Northwest for a package surrounding the No. 3 pick and Anfernee Simons. Brooklyn wasn’t interested.
Damian Lillard teaming up with Bridges and Cameron Johnson would form a stellar big three in Jersey. The question here is whether the Nets have enough assets outside of those two to pull off a trade for Dame. It seems unlikely.
Miami Heat make the most sense for Damian Lillard
It seems crazy to talk about a team that’s currently in the NBA Finals pulling off a trade of this ilk. Miami is three wins away from the title. With that said, it’s a common belief around the organization that Heat front office head Pat Riley will be active in finding Jimmy Butler a running partner during the summer. What better option than Dame?
- Damian Lillard stats (2022-23): 32.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 7.3 APG, 46% shooting, 37% 3-point
The better news for fans in South Beach? Miami has the assets to pull off a trade of this ilk. Former Sixth Man of the Year Tyler Herro would be one of the assets heading to Portland. The guard is still only 23 years old. He’s also averaging 20.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists on 39% shooting from distance since the start of last season.
A first-round pick last year, big man Nikola Jović would also be of interest to Portland’s brass. Meanwhile, Miami has multiple future first-round picks it could offer up to the Blazers. Given Lillard’s friendship with Miami big man Bam Adebayo and the stability of the Heat organization, it’s not hard to realize why they interest the All-Star.