By 750 THE GAME STAFF
Still a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard might as well be gone.
The franchise’s all-time leading scorer officially requested a trade on July 1st, and reports have since indicated Miami is his preferred destination.
A panel of writers covering the NBA for ESPN sounded off on who Lillard will suit up for in 2023-24 and there was a clear top choice.
“Damian Lillard wants to play for Miami and only Miami, I have been continually told since Saturday,” wrote senior NBA writer Marc Spears. “Certainly, it’s easier said than done. I’m told that while Portland isn’t happy with potential packages, there are over five teams interested in a potential multiteam trade that could get it done.”
A three or more team deal has grown increasingly likely with the passing days since the trade request. Miami does not have enough trade assets that could secure a Lillard deal, but they do have some pieces that another team could find appealing.
Guard Tyler Herro, who won NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2021-22, would be the centerpiece of a Miami deal, as presumably would be sharpshooter Duncan Robinson and potentially a pair of future first-round picks.
Spears says a Lillard-Miami partnership seems imminent but could take some time to actualize.
“It won’t be today or tomorrow or perhaps the next day, but I believe it will ultimately end up with Lillard going to Miami. While Lillard does not have a no-trade clause, it doesn’t make sense to trade for a future Hall of Famer who doesn’t want to be there.”
Draftkings has Miami as a -300 favorite to have Lillard come the start of the season. But it is worth a thought exercise to other possible destinations.
NBA Reporter Tim MacMahon offered Danny Ainge and Utah as an under-the-radar option.
“If Danny Ainge decides to roll the dice, the Jazz can make the most attractive offer to the Trail Blazers, thanks to all the picks Utah accumulated over the past year in trades with the Timberwolves, Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers,” wrote MacMahon. “Would it be worth it to add a 33-year-old superstar (who happened to play college ball in Utah at Weber State) to a core that includes 25-year-old All-Star forward Lauri Markkanen and All-Rookie center Walker Kessler?”
The Philadelphia 76ers have also been tossed around in media discussions as a Lillard option, with the outgoing James Harden and the desire to have a backcourt star to pair with reigning MVP Joel Embiid.
NBA writer Tim Bontemps broke down that possibility.
“I think this is a two-horse race that could easily see Lillard winding up in Miami. But with Philadelphia having the most attractive trade option on the board — rising star guard Tyrese Maxey — I’ll bet on 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey finding a way to land yet another star.”
The San Antonio Spurs have also been discussed as a dark-horse, as have the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers.
It remains to be seen if Lillard ultimately gets what he wants — out of Portland, and into Miami — but it sounds like a decent number of franchises are doing their work to get into the mix.
Read the ESPN roundtable piece in full here.