The Portland Trail Blazers are telling teams that they will only move seven-time All-Star guard Damian Lillard for the “deepest return of assets” this offseason, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
This could be an issue for the Miami Heat – Lillard’s preferred destination – as it appears Portland wants to take the best offer available for Lillard.
“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,” Wojnarowski wrote. “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.
“Ownership plans to honor Lillard’s request for a trade, but Blazers officials are telling teams they’ll move Lillard for only the deepest return of assets available. Portland is pursuing the sliding scale superstar package of desirable draft picks and high-level young players. For the summer, Cronin’s betting the market over Miami.”
While the Blazers plan on granting Lillard a trade, the star guard doesn’t have as much leverage as he’d like in this scenario. Lillard wants to go to Miami where he can compete for a title, but he doesn’t have a no-trade clause in his contract.
That means Portland could move him to any team it wants, even if it were to leave the star unhappy. Lillard is arguably the greatest player in Blazers history, but it wouldn’t be smart from a team-building perspective for Portland to trade him for less to the Heat just to appease him.
It seems that Lillard wants a chance to compete for an NBA title after a few rough seasons with the Blazers. Portland has failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two seasons and ended up getting the No. 3 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft this offseason.
The team used that selection to draft guard Scoot Henderson, who could be the successor to Lillard in Portland.
Lillard still is at the peak of his game, averaging a career-high 32.2 points per game last season. The seven-time All-NBA selection also averaged 7.3 assists per game while shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from beyond the arc.
The Heat would certainly benefit from adding Lillard to a team that made the NBA Finals last season, but Miami is likely going to need to part ways with some major assets such as guard Tyler Herro.
Herro reportedly has been telling people that he is being traded this offseason.
It will be interesting to see if another team ignores Lillard’s desire to play in Miami and comes with a massive offer to land the superstar guard.