Some prominent local reporters didn't exactly cover the league's longest-running offseason storyline with objectivity, repeatedly claiming they knew no better trade package for Lillard would materialize than the one being offered to the Portland Trail Blazers by Miami. Some even insisted Portland was operating trade discussions in bad faith—both before and after the Milwaukee Bucks rocked the NBA by swinging a deal for Lillard just before training camp.
Lillard, of course, wasn't the only All-NBA guard to change teams amid his trade to Milwaukee. The Bucks sent Jrue Holiday to the Blazers in the trade, who quickly re-routed him to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Robert Williams III, Malcolm Brogdon, a 2024 first-round pick and the Golden State Warriors' 2029 unprotected first-rounder.
Friction between Portland and Miami stemming from failed Lillard trade talks reportedly played a role in the teams never seriously conferring about a possible deal for Holiday. That breakdown in communication was apparently a bigger loss for the Blazers than initially anticipated, though.
The Heat reportedly would've been willing to offer Portland more assets for Holiday than they ultimately did for Lillard, according to Ethan Skolnick of 5 Reasons Sports.
“Jrue's contract is friendlier. He plays defense, which the Heat value; and the Heat don't believe that Dame does,” Skolnick wrote in a recent chat, per NBA Central.
Are Heat leaking questionable intel on failed Damian Lillard trade?
Whether Miami's potential trade package for Holiday actually would've been bigger than the one they tendered for Lillard is beside the point here. Considering what failed the Heat during their underdog run to the 2022 NBA Finals was offensive dynamism and firepower, though, Lillard made much more sense than Holiday as an all-in trade target.
Utterly dominant as a team led by Holiday, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo would be defensively, it would also lack the volume three-point shooting and consistent ability to bend the floor that's dogged Miami at the highest levels of the postseason over the last few years. The new contract Holiday is due once he opts out of his current deal won't be as big as Lillard's, but would still have severely limited the Heat's team-building prospects around a Big Three of Holiday, Butler and Adebayo.
The real story of even more breadcrumbs about Miami's interest in Lillard being dropped months after he was acquired by Milwaukee, though? Why the team still feels compelled address the Lillard drama at all.
Skolnick's report comes on the heels of another local media member relaying that some league decision-makers would prefer to have standout rookie Jaime Jaquez on their roster over Lillard. Similarly, rumors of the Heat's supposedly overblown desire to trade for Lillard began popping up right as it became apparent the Blazers were steadfastly against sending him to South Beach. More reports suggesting the same surfaced after Lillard was acquired by the Bucks.
The 11-9 Heat have much more to worry about right now than lingering public perception of their fruitless chase for Lillard. Just ask Butler.
“We stand where we don't want to be–which is very mediocre, not good, not bad, not great,” he said after Miami's loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. “Our offense has been mediocre. Our defense has been mediocre.”
Maybe distracting from that mediocrity and absolving itself of blame for failing to bring in Lillard is why the front office seems so intent on continuing to invoke him in an unflattering manner. One thing is abundantly clear: The less the Heat look back on a rough summer, the better chance they'll have to right their wayward ship as 2023-24 continues.