Photo courtesy of @TheNBACentral via Twitter.

Blazers in no Hurry to Trade Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard may already have one foot out the door of Portland, but Joe Cronin is in no rush. In a press conference Monday afternoon, the Trail Blazers General Manager made his intentions very clear.

Dame Time Running Out in Portland

It has been a fruitful 11 seasons for Damian Lillard in Portland. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Lillard quickly established himself as one of the league’s best scorers. The 7-time All-Star selection became the face of the franchise, averaging 25.2 points per game over his career and becoming Portland’s all-time leading scorer. However, in eight playoff appearances with Lillard, Portland only reached the conference finals once in 2019, where they were swept by the Warriors. After the Blazers missed out on the playoffs the past two seasons, the writing was on the wall.

Lillard formally requested a trade on July 1 after meeting multiple times with the Blazers’ front office. This came just days after Portland selected guard Scoot Henderson third overall in the NBA Draft. Lillard has stated that his ultimate goal is to win a championship, and his request made it clear that he does not envision that happening in Portland.

The Lillard/Miami Links Heat Up

When Lillard’s request became public knowledge, one team stuck out as an initial target: the Miami Heat. Miami is coming off their second NBA Finals appearance in the last four seasons, but ultimately have fallen short both times. Despite the efforts of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, it became clear that Miami lacked a scoring punch to drive them to the finish line. So how about adding one of the league’s most elite scorers? Dame seems to be a glove-like fit in Miami. And he agrees.

Lillard’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, was reported to be telling interested teams that his client only wants to play for the Heat. The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski went as far to say that, “There just seems to be an overall belief that… Miami will find a way to get the pieces together to get Damian Lillard there.” But there lies the issue: how can Miami get the pieces together?

Lillard’s Fate Lies in Portland’s Hands

While Dame may have his sights set on Miami, the leverage in this situation may lie in the hands of the Trail Blazers. Lillard is on a massive four-year, 176 million dollar deal, and Miami neither has the cap-space nor the assets to acquire Lillard in a two-team deal. While Miami is likely to deal former 6th-Man of the Year Tyler Herro, Portland is reportedly not interested in the score-first guard. Miami also lacks the pick repertoire that Portland is hoping to acquire in return for Lillard.

If Lillard were to head to Miami, the likely path is through a three-team deal. The Athletic’s Shams Charania said Monday that Portland could acquire three or four first round picks in a Lillard three-team trade, with two likely coming from Miami and at least one more from a team acquiring Tyler Herro. But is that enough? The Oregonian’s Aaron Fentress stated the Trail Blazers are looking for at least four first-rounders and two quality players in a Lillard package. Lillard also does not have a no-trade clause, meaning Portland does not have to honor his trade request.

How Long Will “Dame Time” Wait?

With so much uncertainty surrounding the Damian Lillard trade talks, only three things are clear. Dame wants to go to Miami, Portland wants the best package and the Damian Lillard days in Portland are likely done. Now, all that is left is to see what unfolds in the near future.

About Max Bernstein

Max Bernstein is a South Florida native who is a Journalism student at the University of Florida. He is specializing in the Sports and Media track, and is currently in his Freshman year at UF.

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