Damian Lillard watched Scoot Henderson walk across the NBA Draft stage and don a Blazers cap in late June. That was the last straw. He requested a trade days later, seeking to end his 11-year partnership with the franchise and city that embraced him as a top-10 pick out of unheralded Weber State back in 2012.
The 33-year-old named one destination on his wishlist: the Miami Heat. He loudly broadcast, through intermediary channels, that he would only suit up for the Heat, and that any other franchise would be acquiring an unhappy superstar.
While the league has since cracked down on the public nature of Lillard's trade demands, that hasn't stopped reports of him potentially requesting another trade to Miami if he ends up in Toronto, for example. It also hasn't stopped several alternate suitors from emerging in the marketplace, with the Blazers keen on forcing the best offer out of a Heat team reluctant to part with all its assets.
If Miami remains too stubborn to pony up and the Blazers make a concerted effort to get a deal done before camp starts on Oct. 3... then it becomes exceedingly possible — maybe even likely — that Lillard ends up somewhere he doesn't want to be. We can only guess what might happen then, but the Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, and Philadelphia 76ers are all on the radar along with Miami.
All four teams have the assets to get Portland on the phone. Here's what it would take from each team to get a deal across the finish line.
NBA Rumors: Potential Blazers-Raptors trade for Damian Lillard
It is past time for the Raptors to simply embrace a rebuild... but, Damian Lillard is a singular talent. We have seen trading for a disgruntled star work in Toronto's favor before. Pascal Siakam has been mentioned as a trade candidate all summer, but every sign points to him wanting to re-sign. Maybe the Raptors commit to half a decade of Lillard, Siakam, and Scottie Barnes.
Can that team realistically compete for a championship? Their chances are dubious at best, but all it takes is a stroke of luck and a favorable side of the bracket. Lillard is at the tail end of his prime, but he's coming off the best individual season of his career. The Raptors' core areas of weakness are poor 3-point shooting and a lack of perimeter creators. Lillard addresses both, all while giving new head coach Darko Rajaković — known for his offensive innovation — a once-in-a-generation point guard to build his system around.
Pascal Siakam is a deadly slasher who has improved the ancillary aspects of his skill set in recent years. He was a bonafide All-Star and All-NBA candidate last season and he would probably be the best co-star of Lillard's career since LaMarcus Aldridge. Their games are very complementary.
Meanwhile, Scottie Barnes would get to hone his talents as a play-connector in an offense with actual spacing and movement. His numbers may not improve, but his impact on winning very well could. Plus, he's an elite wing defender. Lillard has never been blessed with a defensive core as well-rounded as Barnes, Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl.
Lillard can push away the Raptors all he wants... but this would be a very good fit on the court. Maybe he has a better shot at the Larry O'Brien in Miami, but the Raptors would not be dooming him to irrelevancy.