Trading Lillard to Miami Makes the Most Sense


The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves at a crossroads.

With two options — either trading franchise icon Damian Lillard or building around him to try to contend — the front office has a decision to make this offseason. 

A widespread consensus among fans is that the organization should trade Lillard to reward him for his loyalty to the franchise, letting him contend for a title elsewhere. 

One team headlining the rumors for Lillard is the Miami Heat, who just lost 4-1 in the NBA Finals to the Denver Nuggets. When discussing possible destinations, Lillard said the Heat is a capable roster and would love to play alongside Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler

“I think Miami is the obvious one,” Lillard said on The Last Stand. “And Bam is my dog. Bam is my dog, for real. But I think Miami is the obvious one.”

First Take host Stephen A. Smith believes that the Heat must pursue the All-NBA guard’s talents after losing the Finals, as he could be a different maker between losing in five and potentially winning.

“If the Miami Heat got their hands on Damian Lillard and managed to keep Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler along the way, we might be having a different conversation during these NBA Finals,” Smith said.

The Heat perspective

Beginning to understand why the trade makes sense requires context for what the Heat will give up. Headed to Portland is a package potentially headlined by 2019 first-round pick Tyler Herro, 2022 first-round pick Nikola Jović and a plethora of first-round picks, according to speculation from Brian Windhorst

Lillard brings more value than Herro had in 2022, as he accounted for 9.0 win shares to Herro’s 3.5. A more assertive scorer and playmaker, he hypothetically takes the offensive load off Butler and makes new opportunities for the offense. 

Herro injured his hand in the first game of the playoffs and missed the rest of the postseason other than suiting up but not playing in Game 5 of the Finals. While he is an offensive focal point for the team, he or Duncan Robinson should be leaving Miami.

Robinson and Herro bring high-volume three-point shooting and poor defense, meaning they only get in each other’s way in the rotation and are not used to their full potential. Shedding that problem while adding value in Lillard is a match made in heaven for the Heat. 

The Blazers’ perspective 

Although moving on from arguably the greatest player in franchise history is tough, it is necessary to contend in the future. After winning the third-overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft, the team is in a prime position to re-tool for contention in a couple of seasons.

Adding 23-year-old Herro and 20-year-old Jović to a core of a 24-year-old Anfernee Simons, 20-year-old Shaedon Sharpe and a young 2023 draftee is a team with high upside. 

After dealing Lillard, the team can also shop around Jusuf Nurkić to add younger depth in the frontcourt. Jerami Grant is also an impending free agent, and moving on from Lillard’s contract and potentially shedding Nurkić’s gives the Blazers a lot of cap space to work with. 

Realistically, pursuing the likes of Domantas Sabonis, Kristaps Porzingis, Jakob Poeltl, Mo Bamba or Christian Wood or a Grant re-signing over the next two offseasons — puts the Blazers firmly in contention for a deep playoff run, assuming the core develops on track. 

Ideal lineup:

  • PG – Simons 
  • SG – Herro
  • SF – Brandon Miller (2023 Draft) 
  • PF – Marvin Bagley Jr. (potential Nurkić trade) 
  • C – Bamba 
  • 6th – Sharpe
  • 7th – Jović

Given everything goes right, the team could have a core moving forward in 2024 and beyond that has as much potential to win a championship as any of the Lillard-led teams.

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About Brandon Willman

Multimedia Journalism student in the PNW with a passion for sports writing. Washington native and fell in love with the Blazers at a young age.

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