As the Damian Lillard trade saga drags on, a third team jumps into the mix as a potential mediator between the Trail Blazers and the Heat.
The “where” of a future Damian Lillard trade has been firmly established: he wants to go to the Miami Heat. Much ink has been spilled on other potential destinations for the Portland Trail Blazers star, but per all reports, Dame wants to start a new chapter in Miami.
So now we get to the “how.” Despite Lillard’s years-long loyalty to Portland, the Trail Blazers hold all the cards (Lillard doesn’t have a no-trade clause). They can trade Lillard to the team that will give them the best return and reportedly emphasized that they were “open for business” within the league. They would take any and all offers for Lillard, treating his desire to go to the Heat as a very low priority.
That’s where a third team could come in. If the Blazers want to check off all their boxes in a potential Dame trade (young blood, draft picks, cap relief) they could do business with a facilitating team and the Heat; together, the two teams could offer Portland a much more desirable haul.
Could the San Antonio Spurs fulfill this role as facilitator?
Spurs enter the Damian Lillard sweepstakes as a potential facilitator
San Antonio has been rumored to land Lillard in a two-team trade, but the details of a deal between the Spurs and Trail Blazers don’t seem to work in Gregg Popovich’s favor. The timelines are off: the Spurs — and Wemby, in particular — need more time to develop. The 32-year-old Lillard sees the narrow window of a championship quickly closing ahead of him.
Rather than flip their top youngsters and essentially mortgage their future to bring in Lillard, the Spurs may be better off playing the middlemen. They can absorb the contracts of Tyler Herro and Jusuf Nurkic, two hot names on the trading block for Miami who aren’t appealing to Portland.
The Spurs would likely still have to fork over picks and some young talent, but they wouldn’t have to cough it all up themselves. San Antonio may only be expected to throw in a first-rounder, at most, to Portland and let the Heat fill in the rest. Then, the Spurs would receive the players with undesirable contracts (Herro, Nurkic), the Trail Blazers would receive a boatload of picks, a few enticing players from Miami along with expiring contracts, and the Heat would get Lillard. Everyone leaves the table happy.
Portland’s exact trade haul would need to get fleshed out some more. In the bigger picture, however, it’s not inconceivable for the Spurs to seize an opportunity to get Wemby some support without risking the team’s long-term future.