Blazers taking Tyler Herro in Lillard trade would be smart roster-building

Tyler Herro, Miami Heat Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Herro, Miami Heat Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports /

Until recently, the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat were assumed to be in discussions over a Damian Lillard trade since early July. The sticking point was Heat guard Tyler Herro, a 23-year-old former Sixth Man of the Year, who would be redundant in Portland as a scoring guard that provides little defense.

The Blazers already have one of those in Anfernee Simons, who’s on a cheaper contract than Herro, and potentially a better version of both of them in Shaedon Sharpe.

As we’ve learned, though, there haven’t been any discussions between the Blazers and Heat. Miami made an offer, Portland wasn’t interested, and that was that.

The Trail Blazers have reportedly even cut out Miami completely in Lillard trade talks.

That Heat offer reportedly included Herro and a pair of future first-round picks. The Blazers can surely do better than that – but is stubbornly refusing to add a player like Herro, regardless of the circumstance, the wisest roster-building move?

Blazers acquiring Tyler Herro from Heat in Damian Lillard trade would be shrewd

Portland adding Herro to its roster is admittedly redundant in the immediate term. When taking a long-term view, however, which the Trail Blazers are as they move Lillard to build around Henderson, Simons and Sharpe, taking a player of Herro’s caliber could be a smart move.

Unless they have a legitimate chance of winning a championship, teams in today’s NBA are in the asset-collection business. For better or worse, player empowerment continues to reach new heights.

Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden have all demanded and received trades within the last two seasons alone. Lillard and Harden (again) have asked out this summer. Going back a few more years, we can add Anthony Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler to the list.

That’s not including stars who were traded because the writing was on the wall. Donovan Mitchell was unlikely to sign another contract with Utah, and the Jazz were choosing to rebuild anyway. He was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ditto for Bradley Beal, who moved from the Washington Wizards to join Durant and the Phoenix Suns.

Toronto Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri who, coincidentally, may be on the verge of making a Lillard trade himself, put it bluntly at the beginning of this offseason, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports:

"“At the end of the season there’s always a player that wants to move or wants [a] change and that’s the new free agency, basically. Free agency doesn’t happen anyway, really. The new free agency is players [changing] teams.”Raptors’ President Masai Ujiri on NBA star trades"

In other words, building a championship-caliber team in 2023 requires collecting as many assets as possible to set yourself up for the next inevitable available superstar.

Adding Tyler Herro would give the Portland Trail Blazers significant roster flexibility

For arguments sake, let’s say the Miami Heat give the Blazers Herro, Nikola Jovic, first-round picks in 2028 and 2030 and a first-round pick swap in 2029 in a Lillard trade. That would be an awful deal for Portland General Manager Joe Cronin to make, but let’s just roll with the worst case scenario.

Then, let’s say Superstar A decides he wants to pull a Harden, Durant, Irving, etc. and asks to be traded.

(Prior to the start of the 2023-24 season, Superstar A could be a number of players: Zion Williamson, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joel Embiid, Jaylen Brown, Trae Young…take your pick. There’s a chance it’s none of those guys and the next NBA-shaking trade demand comes from someone we least expect).

Making that worst-case scenario Lillard trade would give the Blazers the following collection of assets:

  • High-level trade assets:
    • Scoot Henderson
    • Shaedon Sharpe
  • Good trade assets:
    • Anfernee Simons
    • Tyler Herro
  • Solid trade assets:
    • Jusuf Nurkic
    • Matisse Thybulle
    • Kris Murray
    • Jerami Grant
    • Nikola Jovic
    • Miami 2028 first-round pick
    • Miami 2030 first-round pick
  • Still-desireable trade assets:
    • Rayan Rupert
    • Nassir Little
    • Miami 2029 first-round pick swap

Important note: Portland owes a lottery-protected first-round pick to the Chicago Bulls through 2028. If the Blazers can work out a deal to remove those protections, Portland’s own future first-rounders would be available in a trade as well. Those would most likely vault into the “Good trade assets” category as valuable picks coming from a lottery-bound team in the next few seasons.

Let’s go for the big fish and say things devolve even further in Philly and Embiid says, “I’ve had enough. Get me out.”

The Blazers could easily match salaries with some combination of Simons, Herro, Grant and Nurkic; they’d have their own future picks to trade (if Embiid is on the table, you can bet the protections on that Chicago first will be lifted somehow); they have a trio of picks from the Heat; desireable prospects in Murray and Jovic; and lottery tickets like Rupert.

If Scoot and Sharpe are off the table, which they certainly would be barring a significant unforeseen circumstance, Portland can put together, just as an example, a package of:

  • Simons or Herro (another benefit of bringing the Miami guard in is being able to gauge which of the two has more value, either in a trade or to the Blazers)
  • 5 future first-round picks/pick swaps
  • Jerami Grant
  • Nikola Jovic
  • Rayan Rupert

If Daryl Morey is still running the show for the 76ers, he can choose any pick or player from the “good trade assets” bracket on down. If he prefers Kris Murray over Rupert, fine. If he specifically wants one of Simons or Herro, fine. If he wants Little, that might be fine too.

Next. Comparing Raptors, Heat trade packages for Damian Lillard. dark

The point is this: If the Blazers can’t find a better return in a Lillard trade, accepting Herro as part of Miami’s package could be a low-key clever move for Portland’s future – even if it’s epically controversial on Blazers Twitter.