The Damian Lillard rumors are beginning to trickle in a little faster now as NBA teams inch toward training camp, and the latest two are the juiciest. First, it was reported on Sept. 18 by ESPN’s Marc Spears that an unnamed Eastern Conference team has been in talks with the Portland Trail Blazers over Lillard.
The next day, Matt Moore of The Action Network confirmed on the Locked On NBA Podcast (3:45 mark) who that team might be: the Toronto Raptors.
A mystery team inserting itself into the Lillard rumors gives the Blazers some additional leverage. Assumedly, general manager Joe Cronin has been using that in his negotiations with the Miami Heat.
Now that the Raptors are officially involved – or even if they were at some point – things swing a bit in the Trail Blazers favor. Maybe Toronto’s offer is really good, maybe it’s totally underwhelming. Either way, Cronin has some leverage of his own now.
He can go back to the negotiating table with Heat President Pat Riley and say, “I have another team that’s interested in Dame. Increase your offer, either to match theirs or beat it, or we’re moving forward with Toronto.”
Cronin can now pit the Heat and Raptors – or perhaps other teams, according to Moore – against each other in a bidding war. That raises the most important question of all: Which franchise has the trade assets to potentially come out on top and land Damian Lillard?
Can the Heat or Raptors offer the Portland Trail Blazers a better Damian Lillard trade package?
The Miami Heat’s trade assets
Miami’s offer has already been discussed extensively, as the Heat have been involved in the Lillard rumors since they began in July.
Riley has reportedly put an offer on the table of three or four first-round picks/pick swaps, a young player and potentially a few second-rounders. One of those firsts would come from a third team, as the Blazers have no desire to add Tyler Herro, another defensively-challenged guard who doesn’t fit the franchise’s future plans.
Miami’s list of realistic and desirable trade assets includes the following:
- Herro: 23 years old, entering the first year of a 4-year, $120 million contract
- Caleb Martin: 27-year-old forward, $6.8 million salary in 2023-24, $7.1 million player option in ’24-25
- Jaime Jaquez Jr., forward, 18th overall pick in 2023 NBA Draft
- Nikola Jovic, forward, 27th overall pick in 2022 NBA Draft
- Haywood Highsmith, wing, 26 years old
- Kyle Lowry’s $29.6 million expiring contract
- First-round picks in 2028, 2030
- First-round pick swaps in 2027, 2029
- Second-round pick via LAL in 2026
The Blazers have been adamant about getting everything they can from the Heat, which means Riley would have to part with a significant number of these assets to land Lillard.