NBA insider warns teams to watch out for OKC Thunder going after Damian Lillard'
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NBA insider Chris Mannix believes that the Oklahoma City Thunder could make a run at Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.

Mannix believes that if Lillard isn’t traded prior to the 2023-24 campaign and is still with the Blazers, the Thunder could be a suitor if they overachieve early in the season.

It makes sense that Oklahoma City could be a destination, as the young team has a ton of assets that it could leverage in a trade.

Not only have the Thunder stockpiled draft picks in the first round in the coming NBA drafts, but they also have young players like Cason Wallace, Tre Mann, Jaylin Williams, Jalen Williams, Chet Holmgren and Josh Giddey that could be potential options in a trade.

It’s likely the Thunder wouldn’t want to move on from Giddey, Holmgren or Jalen Williams – since they are all expected to be major parts of the team’s future – but that makes some of the other young players on the roster expendable.

Last season, the Thunder made the play-in tournament in the Western Conference, but they ultimately failed to get the No. 8 seed, losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves in their final play-in game.

The emergence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as an All-NBA player has accelerated Oklahoma City’s timeline to contend for a playoff spot this season and beyond.

Oklahoma City potentially coming into the mix would be a bad sign for the Heat, as the Thunder have more draft capital and young players to dangle in a trade than Miami.

However, the Heat do have the leverage that Lillard wants to play for the team, and the Blazers and Heat reportedly have recently gained traction on a potential deal for the seven-time All-Star.

No matter where Lillard ends up, he’s going to make a major impact for his new team – or with Portland if the team doesn’t trade him.

Lillard, who was an All-NBA selection last season, averaged 32.2 points and 7.3 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc in the 2022-23 campaign.

Heat fans certainly would like to see the team get a deal done for Lillard before this season starts to avoid any potential of OKC or another team making a run at the star guard.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.