Miami Heat fans, stop the celebration and don't count your chickens until they hatch.
Everybody expects Damian Lillard to eventually end up in South Beach, but the Portland Trail Blazers are being stingy with their asking price and now, another 'mystery' Eastern Conference team has tossed their hat in the mix.
In an appearance on 'NBA Today,' ESPN insider Marc J. Spears said the Heat are not the only team lurking in the Lillard sweepstakes.
The 33-year-old has four years left on his contract and cannot, under league rules, engage in a protracted holdout without risking serious financial losses. Spears was not comfortable naming this mystery suitor, so we shall engage in a game of educated guessing instead.
Here are the candidates.
No. 3 mystery Damian Lillard suitor: Toronto Raptors
This is probably the kind of situation Lillard hopes to avoid with all his blustering Miami-only posturing. The Toronto Raptors aren't necessarily equipped to trade for Lillard and field a top-end contender, but every move Masai Ujiri and the front office has made over the last few years suggests an ongoing (if futile and ill-fated) desire to contend at all costs.
The Raptors do have the kind of young talent that would interest the Blazers, who have more guards than they know what to do with. The Raptors have zero guards, but a brimming collection of long, defensively-oriented wings. Scottie Barnes? O.G. Anunoby? Those are players who would look mighty good next to Scoot Henderson and Anfernee Simons.
Hypothetically, let's say Toronto manages to pair Lillard with 29-year-old Pascal Siakam. The Raptors would have two prime-ish stars with a competent supporting cast and a boundary-pushing new coach with a knack for offensive scheming. Suddenly, the Raptors aren't wanting for 3-point shooting or halfcourt creation. Suddenly, the Raptors are a real team.
Lillard would not be happy with this outcome — there's no way around that — but there's not much he can realistically do without sacrificing game checks and future movability. So, if the Raptors get brave and decide to make another all-in push at contending, don't be shocked in Lillard heads north instead of south.