As the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat seem to be at a stalemate over of potential Damian Lillard trade, a new report claims that a mystery team from the Eastern Conference has apparently jumped into the chase for the future Hall-of-Famer.
Following the 2023 NBA Draft and the first day of free agency in July, Portland Trail Blazers legend Damian Lillard let it be known that he was no longer satisfied with the organization’s current direction and requested a trade out of town. However, the seven-time All-Star reportedly has also made it clear the Miami Heat are the only team he is willing to play for.
Yet, as the days get crossed off the calendar and a deal seems no closer to being finalized, there have been rumblings that a trade to a different team besides the Heat may now be possible. Especially after new rumors this week suggested that Portland and Miami have not made progress in discussions since June.
However, some more fire was added to the speculation that Lillard could be traded to a different team on Monday. During an appearance on ESPN’s “NBA Today,” NBA insider Marc J. Spears revealed a mystery has become a contender in the trade discussions for the NBA great.
“The latest I’ve been hearing is the Blazers have been talking to several teams. But when you say several teams, that means they could be willing to send him somewhere that’s not the Miami Heat, which is certainly very curious. To get a player that’s a top 75 player, that is going to be professional; but will he really be a happy employee?
“Who has the guts to do it? Would Boston do it? I’m kind of hearing rumors about another Eastern Conference team that I’m not going to throw out there just yet.”– Marc J. Spears
5 franchises that could be the mystery team in Damian Lillard trade chase
It is interesting that a team would be willing to trade for a player that only wants to be sent to one team, but it could be a risky move a contender feels is worth it. They may also feel confident they could offer a similar winning situation that may be able to sway him.
With that in mind, here are five teams that could be the mystery club in the Damian Lillard trade chase.
- Damian Lillard stats (’22-’23): 32.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 7.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 37% 3PT
New York Knicks
Yes, the New York Knicks already have a star point guard, but in today’s game a pair of elite guards has become a popular strategy to compete for championships. Furthermore, the Knicks made a hard push for Donovan Mitchell last summer, so they believe in the concept. And there is good reason to believe in it, after Jalen Brunson reached the Western Conference Finals with superstar point guard Luka Doncic two years ago in a combo that proved to be devastating in that year’s playoffs.
It has been reported that the Brooklyn Nets do not want to go through years of a rebuild after trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at last year’s trade deadline. Current star Mikal Bridges and Lillard are friends, and the All-Star attended one of the Nets playoff games this year. The team has the chips, connections, and desire to make a trade for him very possible.
The Atlanta Hawks are in the midst of a major shift throughout the organization, and trading star guard Trae Young could be a part of that. While the Hawks may not be at the top of Lillard’s destination list, getting Young back in return could be very appealing for the Trail Blazers.
The Philadelphia 76ers have an unhappy star scorer in James Harden. Getting the future Hall-of-Famer back in for Lillard has a couple of benefits because it would help keep Portland competitive for this season but also free up a lot of cap space when he becomes a free agent next Summer. For Lillard, the chance to play with reigning MVP Joel Embiid should be an easy sell if his primary goal is to win a championship next season.
When the Chicago Bulls had a talented point guard leading the offense two seasons ago, they were a serious threat to reach the Finals in the East. Then Lonzo Ball came down with a debilitating knee injury and the Bulls have never been the same since.
If they could swing a trade for Lillard it might return them to prominence next season. Furthermore, offering disgruntled star Zach LaVine as the starting point in the deal would give the Trail Blazers a stronger return than many of the other teams could offer.