With training camp rapidly approaching, the Damian Lillard trade talks and rumors have heated up over the last week, as Portland and other teams now have a soft deadline of sorts approaching in the form of media day to serve as the catalyst for some action.
The Miami Heat still want Lillard, but their offer can’t change much and there are reports the Blazers have been icing them out of conversations as they canvas the league in an effort to find the best possible package for Lillard. There are rumblings that a Lillard trade could expand to include a team like the Phoenix Suns as a third team, as the Blazers could look to add Deandre Ayton with the Suns apparently high on Jusuf Nurkic. After two months of mostly silence, the noise now is a bit hard to parse and figure out what’s real and what’s not, but given the number of newsbreakers that have reported interest in Lillard from teams like the Bulls and Raptors, it certainly seems there’s at least a chance Miami won’t end up Lillard’s destination as he desires.
On Monday, Marc Spears went on NBA Today and said that not only are the Raptors in the mix, but a pair of high ranking executives in the NBA told him they view Toronto as the frontrunners for Lillard, despite the concerns he would not want to be there.
"The hottest name that I'm hearing right now of interest is the Toronto Raptors." — @MarcJSpears
Could Dame end up in the 6? 👀 pic.twitter.com/ISkyyxAY8v
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) September 25, 2023
As Spears notes, Masai Ujiri has made a deal like this in the past with Kawhi Leonard, who rather famously made it clear he didn’t want to be in Toronto before reporting and winning a championship in his lone year with the Raptors. Lillard, of course, is a very different case given he’s not an expiring but has at least three more years on his deal, so it’d take more to talk him into buying in on Toronto for the next stage of his career.
That said, the Raptors could offer a much more enticing package than the Heat in terms of prospects, with Scottie Barnes as a potential centerpiece. Barnes would be a much more snug fit with Scoot Henderson and Shaedon Sharpe (and Anfernee Simons) compared to Tyler Herro, and if you’re Portland you probably would value Toronto’s picks a bit more than Miami’s because you would believe there’s a chance Lillard pushes out of Toronto in the near future as opposed to with the Heat. As Spears is sure to note in his report, there is nothing imminent with Lillard, but there is an awful lot of noise out there about Toronto right now and at least some around the league are buying it as being very real.