In an offseason story that seems to go nowhere but around in circles, Damian Lillard still remains a member of the Portland Trail Blazers despite making his bombshell trade request over two months ago, with the Miami Heat being his preferred destination. But with less than a month left to go until the 2023-24 NBA season begins, a new competitor on the Lillard trade front appears to have emerged, with the Toronto Raptors reportedly being “the favorites” when it comes to trading for the star guard.
However, this reported interest may be nothing more than smoke and mirrors intended to strengthen the Heat front office's sense of urgency, if the latest rumor is any indication. According to Michael Grange, Raptors reporter for Sportsnet, the overwhelming belief around league circles is that Lillard “will ultimately end up” on the Heat, contingent, of course, on the Blazers finding an acceptable offer from the reigning NBA Finals runner-up.
This trade saga has dragged on for far too long, with a few observations regarding these talks standing out due to the Blazers and Heat's inability to find a suitable compromise that fits both parties. For one, it's clear that the Blazers simply aren't keen on the trade assets the Heat are willing to put on the table, namely Tyler Herro, one of their young forwards (Nikola Jovic or Jaime Jaquez Jr.), and a few first-round picks that may end up not having much value.
Meanwhile, the Raptors present an alternative trade partner that has the requisite assets to entice the Blazers to trade away one of the greatest players in their franchise's history. The Blazers are holding onto the hope that the Raptors cave in and offer either Scottie Barnes or OG Anunoby as the centerpieces of a potential trade, although that seems rather unlikely given Masai Ujiri's price-gouging tactics with his players.
For now, the Blazers reportedly remain engaged in convoluted talks that could end up involving Phoenix Suns, with Deandre Ayton and Jusuf Nurkic playing crucial roles in any prospective trade; that, of course, is even trickier to pull off given the number of parties that must agree to the deal.