Damian Lillard's trade-demand saga with the Portland Trail Blazers is set to drag on through the summer. The team is not ready to simply let him go to his top choice, the Miami Heat. There is a good amount of due diligence for general manager Joe Cronin and Portland's front office.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, among many others, previously reported that the Blazers are intent on getting the best package possible in return for Lillard. It's the obvious stance for a front office on the brink of a rebuild to take. Wojnarowski again reports that Cronin is combing every corner of the NBA landscape for the most beneficial trade, sending a clear message to teams interested in a Dame trade.

“For teams calling about trading for Damian Lillard, the message from the Portland Trail Blazers has been unambiguous: Bring your best offer and make your team our preferred trade destination,” writes Wojnarowski. “General manager Joe Cronin doesn't plan to operate a transfer portal to the Miami Heat and dutifully deliver history's greatest Blazer to his targeted team.”

A trade for Lillard will likely end up costing a whole lot. Think of the return that superstars like Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis yielded for their respective teams. The Blazers — a franchise that must make shrewd trades and draft picks because of its inability to lure star free agents — have to make its Lillard trade count. This is almost certainly going to be their best chance to land the haul of assets that makes rebuilding much easier.

It would be kind of the Blazers to help facilitate a trade that is favorable to Lillard, one of the franchise’s greatest players. But it's not their job to be nice — it's to make the best possible moves that set the team up for success. They should certainly try to do him some favor by not dumping him onto another rebuilding team. But besides that, Portland can not make a Lillard trade just to finally end the stand-off.

While one prevailing narrative states that trading Lillard to somewhere he doesn’t want to go is bound to end poorly because he won’t be pleased, that’s not necessarily the case. Sure, Lillard wants to go to the Heat and Miami will likely get the happiest version of him. But if there’s anything to learn from Kawhi Leonard's title run with the Toronto Raptors, Paul George's career year with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Chris Paul resurrecting the Los Angeles Clippers into a perennial playoff contender, it's that trading stars to places they don’t intend to go can still produce great results.

Lillard is often lauded for his tough-minded approach to winning. The Blazers superstar proudly situated himself as the player that doesn’t run from the grind and despises superteams. If that truly is the case, he should have no problem going to a new team that isn’t the Heat. Wojnarowski reports that Lillard's agent is warning other teams of this but that’s just about the only thing Lillard can do aside from threatening to boycott the team entirely like Ben Simmons did to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Blazers have all the leverage here. Lillard doesn’t have a no-trade clause and he chose to sign an extension through 2026 (with a player option the next season), surrendering the leverage to determine his future home but guaranteeing him $122 million over two additional years. That’s a perfectly understandable tradeoff to make but this situation right here — where Lillard now wants out but may not get to go to his preferred destination — is what he knowingly gave up.

The blueprint has been laid out for how stars can maintain leverage over their teams when they have shorter contracts or no-trade clauses. Lillard chose not to go that route and is finding out about the downsides to it the hard way. The Blazers are firmly in the driver’s seat for his trade demand.

Again, it would be cruel of the Blazers to send Lillard to a hopeless team. For the 11 years where he gave everything he had to the team and local community, they owe it to him to at least give him a chance to compete for a title. But that chance doesn’t have to come from the Heat, who currently don’t have an appealing trade package. Unless Miami can cobble up a multi-team trade that nets genuine value, the Blazers are better off doing business elsewhere.

This trade will be Cronin's career-defining move and serve as the backdrop for the Blazers' rebuild. Potential young stars Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe are already in place and getting every last drop of trade value out of the Lillard trade is a must.

Lillard may still end up on the Heat but the Blazers don’t have to bend to his will. Sending him to a team in playoff contention that isn’t Miami isn’t doing him dirty — it's just business in the NBA.