The Damian Lillard trade rumors are heating up once again.
The Miami Heat haven’t been able to get a deal done with the Portland Trail Blazers for Lillard to this point.
However, there now might be a new suitor for Lillard ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season.
According to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears, a “mystery Eastern Conference team” has emerged in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes:
A mystery eastern conference team has held trade talks centered around Damian Lillard, per @MarcJSpears
“I’m kind of hearing rumors about another Eastern Conference team that I’m not gonna throw out there just yet.” pic.twitter.com/tAmpFG5nw3
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) September 18, 2023
Lillard requested a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in July and said that the Miami Heat were his preferred destination.
However, talks between the Heat and the Blazers surrounding the seven-time All-Star have hit a wall.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst spoke about the Lillard to Heat trade holdup on his podcast, The Hoop Collective saying “they [Blazers] want the Heat to literally scrounge into every nook and cranny and produce everything they possibly can. The Heat don’t feel the need to do that.”
In the mists of this ongoing Damian Lillard trade saga, could the Raptors be the ‘mystery team’ that emerges?
According to NBA writer Matt Moore of The Action Network, the Raptors have shown interest in Damian Lillard:
The Raptors have shown interest in Damian Lillard, per @HPbasketball
“That’s the thing nobody’s really saying, but everyone around the league kinda knows that the Raptors are amongst the teams.”
— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) September 19, 2023
The Raptors made a gutsy, out of nowhere trade in 2018 when they acquired Kawhi Leonard on his expiring contract. Leonard wanted to play for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Raptors still took the gamble. The move paid off as the franchise won the 2019 NBA title. Masai Ujiri is no stranger to making a big move when least expected.
Will the Raptors trade for Lillard?
Outside of the Raptors 2024 first-round pick which they owe to the San Antonio Spurs (Top-6 protected), Toronto does control the rest of their future firsts.
However, the biggest question is would the Raptors be willing to part ways with Scottie Barnes to get a deal done? It’s hard to imagine the Blazers wanting anything less. Unless the Raptors get creative and send the Blazers a package that doesn’t include Scottie Barnes, then they shouldn’t get involved.
Barnes is a young talent and has too much upside to give up on at this point of his career for a player in Lillard who has his sights set on Miami.
This should be a pass from the Raptors.
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