Report: Raptors believe they can position themselves ahead of Heat and everyone else in negotiations for Damian Lillard

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The Miami Heat may have legitimate competition in trying to trade for Damian Lillard, with the Toronto Raptors reportedly believing they can move in front of the Heat in talks with the Portland Trail Blazers.

“By all accounts, the Raptors seem at least reasonably confident they can maneuver their way to the front of the line, past the Miami Heat — Lillard’s preferred destination — and ahead of a team such as the Brooklyn Nets, who have the draft picks to get something done if Portland is open to taking on the last two years of Ben Simmons’ contract,” wrote Michael Grange. “The Orlando Magic could also make themselves heard, per sources.”

This could be an interesting development considering the Heat haven’t been able to strike a deal with the Trail Blazers for the 33-year-old, who requested a trade almost three months ago.

However, a recent report indicated that Lillard “would make it ugly” if he were traded to Toronto. According to another report, if the seven-time All-Star were to be traded anywhere but Miami, he would simply ask that team to trade him to the Heat.

The Raptors may believe they are ready to contend again after winning the NBA title in 2019, with a rebuild seemingly not in the cards despite them making the playoffs just once in the past three seasons. They were 41-41 last season and lost to the Chicago Bulls in the play-in round.

The Bulls are another team that has been linked to Lillard, and the market evidently may not end there. The Trail Blazers recently rekindled discussions with teams other than the Heat, perhaps to make a two-team trade or orchestrate a bigger deal.

Tyler Herro has long been considered the centerpiece of the packages the Heat are willing to offer, but the Trail Blazers seem to have no interest in the 23-year-old and his big contract.

Adding Lillard to a core of Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo likely would keep the Heat among the contenders for the NBA championship this season and maybe beyond. But losing him to an Eastern Conference rival such as the Raptors, Nets or Bulls may change that scenario significantly.

NBA training camps are about to begin shortly, and the start of the 2023-24 season is mere weeks away, so it would benefit all sides and teams to finally determine Lillard’s future very soon.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.