Damian Lillard to the Miami Heat? Pinch us, we’re dreaming. The Portland Trail Blazers star guard — and arguably the best volume scorer in the NBA — remains under contract through the 2025 season. However, there is new speculation that Lillard could force a trade to a contender after another first-round playoff exit.
Portland lost Game 6 to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night and Twitter went crazy, then Lillard added extra intrigue with his post-game comments. He painted the picture of a franchise not doing enough and falling short of expectations. The six-time All-Star averaged 34.3 points and 10.2 assists per game versus Denver.
“I don’t know what a shakeup looks like or what changes will be made or could be made, but obviously as is, it wasn’t good enough,” Lillard told reporters, via ESPN. “We came up short against a team without their starting point guard and shooting guard (Will Barton and Jamal Murray). … Obviously, where we are isn’t good enough to win a championship if it’s not good enough to get out of a first-round series with two of their best three or four players not on the floor.”
Interesting. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith mentioned the Miami Heat by name as one of “six or seven teams” that have put calls into the Portland front office about Lillard. The loud-mouth sports talker shared the following:
Several calls have come their way. You got a lot of teams, about six or seven different teams, that think they can get their hands on him. They think they got a shot. One of them includes the Knicks which is scheduled to have about $75 million in cap room space along with some picks. But also the Clippers, the Miami Heat, and who knows what the Lakers might try to do. Stay tuned.
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Lillard Trade Brings Huge Contract
The Heat could take pen to paper and sign a high-priced free agent like Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry rather easily in the offseason. If they want Lillard, the organization will have to pull off a blockbuster trade and get crafty considering their lack of assets. Heat president Pat Riley doesn’t have a first-rounder to flash at Portland.
However, they could dangle a few young stars — Tyler Herro quickly comes to mind — and some later-round picks in a package. It may come down to how testy Lillard gets with his demands. Miami has the salary-cap space to absorb his four-year, $176 million extension — that’s $44 million annually for the 30-year-old.
Riley had previously stated he wanted to “stay the course” and keep his young nucleus in place. That was before the Heat lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. Lillard’s name might be too appealing to pass up, especially if Eastern Conference rivals like the New York Knicks are sniffing around him.
“Have a good summer,” Riley told reporters on Thursday. “There’ll be a lot of news coming along the way, but again, just a last shoutout to our fans and to everybody is that we’ll be back.”
Does Star Guard Want to Leave Portland?
One of the biggest questions not being asked in the Lillard rumors is does he want to leave Portland? He has never come out and said that. In fact, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts called the rumors “laughable” when they first sprouted up last July. Lillard is a homegrown talent for Portland after the franchise selected him sixth overall in 2012. He has averaged 25.7 points and 6.2 assists over nine seasons while making eight playoff appearances.
Problem is, Lillard’s teams have never reached the NBA Finals and regressed over the past seasons following their 2019 ride to the Western Conference Finals. Maybe the one-time Rookie of the Year is prime for a change of scenery — and South Beach has much better weather than Portland or New York.