Damian Lillard trade: Ranking potential mystery teams in talks with Blazers

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (left); Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks (left); Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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Finally some good news for the Portland Trail Blazers on the Damian Lillard trade front. ESPN and Andscape’s Marc Spears reported on Sept. 18 there’s an Eastern Conference mystery team that’s held trade talks with Portland surrounding its star point guard. If these latest Blazers rumors are true, things could get real interesting real fast.

Dame’s camp has made it crystal clear for more than two months that the seven-time All-NBA star’s preferred landing spot is with the Miami Heat – and only the Miami Heat. The Blazers, however, aren’t interested in what Miami has to offer – mainly a few future first-round picks, pick swaps and a young player.

Portland has no appetite for the Heat’s best trade chip, guard Tyler Herro, which would mean a third team would need to be involved to get a deal done. Talks are set to ramp up as teams get closer to training camp in the beginning of October, but to this point, nothing concrete has come out of the Heat-Blazers rumors.

The best thing that could happen for Portland is for Miami to get desperate as the season approaches or for another team to get involved in the sweepstakes, either to drive up the price for the Heat or to simply make a more attractive offer the Trail Blazers may accept.

Now, it appears that’s exactly what’s happening – but who might be this unnamed Eastern Conference team that’s part of these latest Blazers rumors?

Ranking 3 potential mystery teams that could be in talks with the Portland Trail Blazers over a Damian Lillard trade

Most likely potential mystery team in trade talks for Lillard: Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets have surfaced in rumors surrounding the 33-year-old since he made his trade demand on July 1. There are legitimate reasons why it would make sense for the Nets to bring in someone like Dame, but there are also plenty of reasons why it makes no sense at all.

Brooklyn just got out of the superstar drama business after trading James Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers and Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns after both asked for trades of their own. Why would the Nets throw themselves back into that type of mess?

Brooklyn was a pleasant surprise after the KD trade, riding Mikal Bridges and a collection of high-caliber role players to the East’s No. 6 seed. The team is running it back with most of that squad intact.

Adding a superstar such as Lillard to a core of Bridges, Cam Johnson, Nic Claxton and Dorian Finney-Smith (and potentially Ben Simmons) would certainly vault the Nets into the top half of the conference.

Brooklyn wouldn’t have to tear apart its roster to make the Blazers an attractive offer, either – it has seven unprotected first-round picks between 2025 and 2030 and a handful of young players who wouldn’t play a significant role on a contending team. It would head into 2023-24 as a deep squad with a superstar in Lillard and a budding star in Bridges.

On the flip side, after a few years of drama the Nets are finally building for the future, not the immediate present, with that collection of players and assets. Trading some of it for an aging player who’s owed $216 million over the next four seasons would be a major risk.